Fat-soluble, vitamin D helps with bone development and growth. This means that too little vitamin D can lead to thinning bones, bone pain, and muscle weakness.
Vitamin D works together with calcium to keep your bones strong and healthy, preventing conditions like osteoporosis. Obtaining sufficient amounts of vitamin D from diet alone can be difficult, but a few minutes of exposure to sunlight every few days can help make up the difference. Spending time in the sun activates the production of the vitamin in the body. When your skin is exposed to ultraviolet light, such as sunlight, it creates vitamin D3, which is then processed by your liver and kidneys into a form your body can use.
Because seniors often spend less time in the sun, they are particularly at risk for vitamin D deficiencies. Aging skin is also less efficient in creating vitamin D.
The International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that those over the age of 60 should take a vitamin D supplement at a dose of 800-1,000 IU (international units) daily. Researchers at El Camino Hospital note that adults can meet the recommended amount of vitamin D without supplements by exposing their faces, hands, arms, or backs—without sunscreen—to the sun for just 10-15 minutes a few days a week.
Diet can also improve vitamin D intake. Foods with significant amounts of vitamin D include:
- Sunflower seeds
If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels, a simple blood test can determine any risks to bone health. For a referral to a doctor that specializes in senior health, click here.
This article first appeared in the March 2017 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.