foods rich in vitamin D

Vitamin D levels in elderly people – what you need to know

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For the majority of people throughout their lives, getting the right balance of minerals and vitamins, including vitamin D, is not too difficult. This can be achieved fairly easily by eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting plenty of fresh air plus just enough sunshine (but not too much). Sometimes, however, there are people who need a little extra help to keep their bodies healthy. This might be done following a health review by a medical professional by taking a look at possible improvements that can be made to diet, or in some cases through the addition of high-strength vitamin supplements.


Vitamin D supplements

Many people choose to take vitamin supplements on a regular basis even without having had a health check-up, just because they believe they may not be getting the right amount of vitamins through their diet. However, it really is wise to check with your doctor before taking any supplements particularly if you are already on prescription medication as this could cause you issues. If you are concerned that you may not be getting enough vitamin D, particularly if you live in a cold climate where you are not regularly exposed to sunshine very often you may prefer to make a doctor’s appointment to discuss it. That way, the right questions are asked and you get all the details you need to make an informed decision.

It is very likely that those living in colder climates will be offered a blood test to check for vitamin D levels because doctors are becoming increasingly aware that large numbers of people have low vitamin D levels because of a lack of sunlight. This can contribute to multiple health issues from the more minor, such as fatigue, through to more serious symptoms such as depression.

This isn’t to say that supplements won’t be helpful, but it is always better to discuss things like this with a doctor first. In some cases of very low vitamin D the only solution is a very high dose supplement for 1 – 3 months to boost levels followed by a change in diet and regimen to ensure greater exposure to sunlight.

What is vitamin D?

The majority of the vitamin D found in the human body is created through a reaction between the sunlight and skin. Those individuals who spend plenty of time outdoors in the sunshine should have good levels of vitamin D in their bodies. Unfortunately, many older people, particularly those who have lower mobility do not always spend as much time outside as necessary. As already mentioned, in colder climates this is a particular problem.

If an elderly person you know has care at home, then the care giver will be able to help by arranging for them to spend more time outside to improve vitamin D levels. This could be as simple as sitting in a chair in the garden on a sunny day with arms exposed to the sunlight. A lack of mobility does not have to mean a lack of fresh air. Even for those who are wheelchair-bound some time spent in the garden or further afield is perfectly possible.

Vitamin D is, of course, also found in some foods such as eggs, oily fish, margarine, fortified breakfast cereals and yoghurt – all of which can easily be added to the diet. These foods are also a good way to make easily digestible high-calorie meals for seniors with a low appetite.

What do experts suggest?

Experts suggest that because relying on diet and sunlight alone in the UK where the weather is often very inclement may not always make it possible for a body to meet its vitamin D needs, additional measures should be considered. This is why, in general, it is recommended that those who are over the age of 65 should actually take a small supplement of around 10 micrograms per day of vitamin D. They also recommend that older people should try to get out in the sun for a short period of around 10 to 15 minutes every day.

Recent research about older people however suggests that the dose of vitamin D consumed by those over the age of 70 should in fact be even higher than this level. The results of the research suggest that for people aged between 19 to 70 years of age vitamin D levels should be as high as 600 IU per day with this dose rising to 800 IU per day for those aged over 70. These recommendations, it is believed, will help to optimise bone health in the elderly, which is particularly important for women who are more at risk of osteoporosis in later life. This increase level of vitamin D will also help elderly people to maintain better muscle strength which will prevent frailty.


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