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The Dangers Of Vitamin D Deficiency In Older People And How To Prevent It

9 April 2014

The Dangers Of Vitamin D Deficiency In Older People And How To Prevent It

As we move into summer, topping up on the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is easier than ever. Sunlight is good for us in many ways chiefly because absorption of sunlight is the main method by which our bodies create Vitamin D, which is critical to a strong and healthy body.

Older people are at a much higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency due to changes in the body that are a natural part of the ageing process. The skin becomes much less efficient at creating Vitamin D as we enter old age, and generally our diets become less varied which limits other sources of the vitamin. Couple this to a tendency to spend more time indoors, especially in the winter, and to also wear heavier clothes and it all adds up to a greatly increased chance. But in older people this is of greater concern than it is for younger people.

Here are some of the main dangers of Vitamin D deficiency in older people.

  • Muscle Weakness. Older people do generally lose a certain amount of their muscle mass, due to chemical changes in the body, so we tend to become weaker with age. Vitamin D deficiency has also been shown to increase muscle weakness and fatigue. It generally manifests as heaviness in the legs and general feeling of tiredness. This increases the likelihood of falls, which can have serious complications for older people.
  • Increased Risk of Diabetes. Several studies have shown that a deficiency in Vitamin D increases the body’s resistance to insulin. This means that people with this deficiency are at an elevated risk of developing diabetes, a condition that has all manner of additional health complications associated with it.
  • Increased Risk Of Metabolic Syndrome. Clinical research has found that people with insufficient levels of Vitamin D are also highly likely to suffer from metabolis syndrome. This is a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. This increases risk of heart attack and stroke, conditions older people are already at greater risk of than other age groups.

What can you do to ensure you or an older relative don’t suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency?

  • Catch Some Rays. This is the obvious one, but when it is sunny get out and enjoy it. Obviously take the necessary precautions and in the summer stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 11am until 2pm, as well as making sure you’re adequately hydrated. By being out in the sun you’ll kickstart your body’s production of Vitamin D. Remember though that from October through to April much of the UK is too far north for sunlight to generate Vitamin D in the skin.
  • Eat Eggs and Oily Fish. Both of these foods have high levels of  Vitamin D. By factoring them into your diet on a regular basis you’ll increase levels. Fish is the main player here, as it has vastly more than eggs. Cod liver oil is a supplement high in Vitamin D.
  • Have A Vitamin D Injection. If you have low levels then your GP may administer a Vitamin D injection which gives you sufficient dosage for 6 months.
  • Take A Regular Supplement. Taking a dietary supplement of Vitamin D each day that provides 10 micrograms will keep your levels safe.