A study has shown that elderly men and women who were deficient in vitamin D were significantly more likely to be admitted to a nursing home than those with high levels.
Vitamin D deficiency is common among senior citizens. Up to 90 percent may suffer from the deficiency.
One reason is their lower sunshine exposure, along with the reduced capacity of older skin to synthesize vitamin D when exposed to light. Poor nutritional intake is also a factor.
Low vitamin D concentrations may accelerate age-related decline in physical health. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to be one cause of lower muscle strength, loss of muscle strength, and poorer physical performance.
There is also an association between lower vitamin D concentrations and higher mortality risk. Several studies have shown improvements in muscle strength, body sway, fall risk, and physical performance following vitamin D supplementation.
The greater risk of nursing home admission can in part be explained by the high risk of osteoporosis, falls, and fractures related to a lack of vitamin D. But it could also be related to the fact that vitamin D deficiency has been shown to be connected to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and numerous other health problems. Insufficient vitamin D could be a main cause of poorer health, and higher health care costs, among older people.
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread among nursing home residents, not to mention much of the U.S. population. Elderly citizens with vitamin D deficiency are more likely to be:
Vitamin D deficiency also increases the risk of bone and muscle problems and perhaps a host of other diseases including:
The beneficial effects that vitamin D can provide are nothing short of amazing. So much so that optimizing your sun exposure and secondarily the levels of vitamin D in your body may, indeed, be one of the most crucial steps you can take in support of your long-term health.
Unfortunately, many Americans do not get enough vitamin D, largely because of experts' recommendations to avoid all sun exposure. No advice could be more misguided.
Get outside regularly -- that is the key. Take some time for yourself and work up to the point where you get one hour of sun on your skin every day it is possible. I can assure you that I consider this a critical part of my health program and seek to get in to work around 5 a.m. so I can leave early and read out in the sunshine.
Please remember that, in nearly every circumstance, getting your vitamin D by exposing your body to UV light from the sun is the best option. When doing so, however, there are two extremely important points to remember:
1. Stay away from tanning beds, as they increase your risk of cancer.
2. Never stay in the sun for long enough to burn your skin. At the beginning of the season, limit your exposure to perhaps as little as five to 10 minutes a day. Progressively increase your time in the sun so that in a few weeks, you will be able to have normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer.
If you use the sun to get vitamin D, you really don't have to worry about measuring your vitamin D levels, as sunlight will actually destroy excess vitamin D. It is very difficult to overdose on vitamin D from sun exposure.
But if you take supplements in the winter months, when sun exposure is more difficult, be sure to monitor your vitamin D levels. If you do supplement, I recommend cod liver oil, the best source of vitamin D other than the sun.