Seniors are at high risk for Vitamin D deficiency, making Vitamin D intake more important to help prevent complications and illnesses. As we get older, the body changes and so does its needs. Here are some body and lifestyle changes that make the elderly more vulnerable to Vitamin D deficiency.
- Less exposure to sunlight
Vitamin D is present in food but the selection is quite limited, making sunlight one of its major sources. Sun exposure helps the body create Vitamin D, and regular exposure to sunlight might be a problem to seniors due to different circumstances such as reduced mobility.
- Reduced capacity of the skin to produce Vitamin D
The processes of the body also become less efficient as we age. An example of this is the ability of the skin to synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight, which is 4 times less in seniors than younger people.
- Reduced capacity of the kidney to convert Vitamin D
Kidneys convert Vitamin D into its active form. This function may also decrease as we age, increasing risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
What are the possible effects of Vitamin D deficiency in the elderly?
Around the age of 35, we start to lose bone density and our bones become thinner, says the National Health Service UK. From this age, we gradually continue to lose bone density, and may lead to osteoporosis if it occurred at a faster pace. Since Vitamin D plays a primary role in Calcium absorption, insufficient levels of it especially during old age may increase risk of fractures as well as bone diseases such as osteoporosis or osteomalacia.
Aside from being associated to poor bone health, Vitamin D deficiency in the elderly may also lead to other complications and diseases. According to Barbara Boucher in her paper “The Problems of Vitamin D Insufficiency in Older People”, insufficient amount of Vitamin D may also increase risk of cardiovascular disease.
In addition, it has also been linked to the increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In a study published in Neurology, researchers found that their results linked Vitamin D deficiency to the mentioned conditions, but more research is needed to strengthen this link.
Although aging is inevitable, Vitamin D deficiency and the complications or illnesses it brings are not. Aside from sunlight and food, a Vitamin D supplement may also be taken to help meet the sufficient levels during these years.