Why do Seniors Need Vitamin D?
With spring now in full swing, many people are getting outdoors more than they were in the winter months. With this, there will be an increase in the absorption of Vitamin D. How? We’ll get to that in a moment. Surprisingly, the “D” in Vitamin D doesn’t actually stand for anything, but was rather the next letter in the order of which vitamins were discovered: Vitamin A, B, C, and D.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D refers to a group of secosteroids (a type of steroid with a broken ring in the molecule) that are fat-soluble. This group is responsible for boosting the absorption of minerals in the intestines, like iron, phosphate, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. Unlike some other vitamins, Vitamin D is not a singular substance, but rather several that scientists have found over time, each doing similar things. But Vitamin D is so much more than just the definition above.
Vitamin D has a special quality to it. The body actually creates the vitamin in response to sunlight. Yes, you read that correctly. The body can only create this essential vitamin if it receives a dosage of sunlight, or, UV light. Without sunlight, the body must receive Vitamin D through another avenue, generally a supplement. More on supplements a little later.
How Does Vitamin D Affect Me?
Quite simply, without Vitamin D to help your body absorb all the nutrients it gets, you can actually lose bone tissue, have a decreased ability to fight infection, unregulated cell growth, messages that are carried to the nervous system can become erratic, and mood can suffer.
It is estimated that over one billion people in the world have a Vitamin D deficiency. One of the most common and immediate ways that a lack of Vitamin D can affect people is with depression. More specifically, there’s a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D, fittingly. S.A.D. is a condition that typically happens during the winter months when people are more apt to be inside to avoid the harsh winter weather. S.A.D. is very similar to depression, except usually subsides once winter changes into spring. Although, with seniors S.A.D. is prevalent at any time of the year.
Seniors are generally not as active as their younger counterparts. This can increase their chances of a lack of Vitamin D if they’re not spending sufficient time outdoors and receiving a dose of sunlight, or, at least, taking a supplement. If seniors are not getting enough Vitamin D, it can result in S.A.D., and because it’s akin to depression, may only further the person’s lack of interest to go outside.
What Can Be Done?
Getting more Vitamin D is as easy as going outside and getting some sun. Spending time outside in a garden, going on a walk, sunbathing, etc. These are great ways to have an enjoyable experience while making sure you’re getting sunlight. The National Institutes of Health does suggest that because of the link between sun exposure and skin cancer, those more susceptible to skin cancers should rely on supplements to get the right amount of Vitamin D. The right amount would be determined by a trip to your doctor to check your levels. The doctor will figure out which supplement strength is right for you.
Certain foods are supplemented with Vitamin D, like whole milk, for example. This helps with the absorption of calcium. Breakfast cereals are also typically fortified with Vitamin D. So, between regular sunlight, supplementation, and various food items, getting Vitamin D into your body shouldn’t be difficult.
Surprisingly, there’s a correlation between an uptick of disease and time spent inside, away from the sun. Also, using sunscreen will block the sun from being able to reach the skin, through which Vitamin D production begins. Obviously, wearing sunscreen is important, so speaking with your doctor about what the best way to get Vitamin D is going to be the best bet.
Between going outside and enjoying time in the sun and taking supplements, one should have little problem being able to get a healthy amount of Vitamin D into themselves. Talking with a qualified healthcare professional is a good first step if you’re curious if your Vitamin D levels are adequate.
At Bonaventure Senior Living communities, there’s always something to do that can get you outside and into the sunlight for a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Our communities offer over a dozen activities a day. Speaking with a qualified nurse at any of our communities would be a great first step to learning more about how important Vitamin D is and how you can learn more about your levels. Our Twitter page has daily articles and posts that can help you learn more about seniors and senior lifestyle.