Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally found in certain foods, including fish, eggs, fortified milk and cod liver oil. It is also available as a dietary supplement. According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin D’s primary role is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, and assist the body in absorbing calcium, which forms and maintains strong bones. It thus plays a vital role in protecting older adults from osteoporosis, and may also help protect against high blood pressure, cancer and other diseases.
This vitamin is a critical nutrient that the body needs to function properly, and D insufficiencies may trigger severe health problems, particularly in older adults. The consequences of vitamin D deficiency in seniors are likely to be “losses in bone, strength, and function and the development of pain,” states the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
According to AgingCare, some signs that you may be experiencing vitamin D deficiency include, but are not limited to: weakening of the muscles, mood changes and fatigue, overeating and weight gain and stomach problems.
UV radiation from the sun is the best natural source of vitamin D, which, in fact, is called “the sunshine vitamin” because it is naturally made by the body when the skin is exposed to the sun.
Natural foods high in vitamin D include fish oils, fatty fish, mushrooms, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are great sources of vitamin D. For example, a 3-ounce sockeye salmon fillet contains about 450 international units (IUs) of vitamin D, which represents a good portion of the 600 IUs recommended as a daily allowance for adults age 19–70 by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services National Institutes of Health. For those over the age of 70, 800 IUs are recommended.
Nearly all types of cow’s milk in the U.S. — and some soy and rice milks — are fortified with vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from fortified orange juice. Check the label to see if the brand you are buying contains added vitamin D.
Without a sufficient level of vitamin D, bones may become thin and brittle. Getting enough vitamin D is essential for strong, healthy bones and can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Only your doctor will be able to determine if you are getting the proper amount each day. They will take into consideration your medical status, potential health issues, and current medications before considering a supplement regimen.