Aging can impact the lives of seniors in several ways as it poses many health issues. Some signs could include extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain, general weakness, lack of concentration and sleep disturbance. While many of these may be attributed to wear and tear of the body organs over the years, it is also indicative of a potentially dangerous problem which is causing growing concern recently-Vitamin D deficiency. This is more prevalent in the elderly population as nearly 40% of seniors worldwide suffer from it. Children with this deficiency have soft bones caused by Rickets disease.
Amongst the various recommended vitamins for senior diet, Vitamin D plays a significant role in the proper functioning of the body and prevents various diseases. Unlike other vitamins, the functioning of Vitamin D is similar to that of a hormone and all body cells have a receptor for it. Vitamin D is also needed for the absorption of calcium in the body.
As people grow older, their bodies lose the ability to synthesize Vitamin D naturally from sunlight. Additionally, with aging, the deterioration of the kidney functions fails to activate Vitamin D which is essential for proper assimilation in the body. Besides, elders are more likely to be indoors and have limited exposure to the sun and outdoor exercises or activity.
Common Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency
- Being dark-skinned
- Old age
- Having obesity
- Imbalanced nutrition that lacks foods like dairy products and fish
- Residing in cold regions with little or no exposure to natural sun rays
- Constant usage of sunscreen lotion outside the home
- Limited outdoor stay
Impact of Vitamin D Deficiency in Seniors
- Low immunity and resistance in the body leading to increased risk of infections and illnesses
- Unusual fatigue and tiredness and abnormally low energy levels
- Chronic bone and back pain especially in the lower back due to low absorption of calcium
- Mental depression particularly manifested as seasonal depression in the winter months
- Impaired function of wound healing after surgical procedures, injuries or infection attacks
- Loss of bone mineral density and bone mass leading to increased risk of experiencing fractures
- Severe hair loss and stress due to an auto-immune disease called alopecia areata (which is more prominent in women)
- Muscle cramps and pain due to poor interactions between the vitamin and pain-sensitive nerve cells
- Increases chances of getting several ailments including osteoporosis, arthritis, cancer, heart disease and diabetes
Tips for Overcoming Vitamin D Deficiency
- Seniors must ensure they get atleast ten minutes of uninhibited exposure to sun rays thrice a week for natural synthesis of Vitamin D.
- Healthy Diet for Senior Citizens must incorporate foods like milk, breakfast cereals and juices daily for raising the Vitamin D levels. Other foods highly fortified with Vitamin D include cod liver oil, salmon, cheese, egg yolk, mackerel, tuna and beef. Several care facilities like Assisted Living Dining Experience provide a wide platter of menus containing such nutritious and delicious foods to prevent vitamin deficiencies in seniors.
- Take regular healthcare supplements as multivitamins to avoid medical complications.
- Consult the doctor and undergo clinical tests for detecting Vitamin D deficiency even if any subtle symptoms are experienced.
Benefits of Vitamin D
- Stronger bones and teeth
- Enhanced body capacity to fight infections
- Facilitates the carrying of messages through the nervous system
- Aids in better muscular movement
- Regulates cell growth and tissue repair
Senior Food Chart suggests a daily intake of 400 International Unit(IU) of Vitamin D for persons aged between fifty and seventy years. Elders above seventy years are advised to take a daily intake of 600 IU. Thus, fixing this deficiency is easy and simple though it gives long-lasting health benefits.