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5 Benefits of Vitamin D for Elderly Adults

By Kara LewisJanuary 12, 2022
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Vitamin D is a crucial component of healthy aging, so much so that dosage recommendations increase with age. However, many older adults don’t get enough of this essential nutrient, leading to bone softening, nausea, cognitive difficulties, and other health issues. To avoid these problems, older adults should aim for the recommended dose of vitamin D for seniors: 15 micrograms for those under the age of 71, and 20 micrograms for those 71 and older. 

Learn about the benefits of vitamin D for seniors, common sources, and how the vitamin can protect aging adults’ mood, bone health, and overall wellness.

1. Vitamin D boosts senior happiness and mental health

Vitamin D improves senior mental health, combating prevalent issues like elderly depression. A 2017 study of more than 5,600 older adults found a link between lower levels of vitamin D and depressive symptoms, such as loneliness, lack of enjoyment, and restless sleep.

Study participants with the least amount of vitamin D reported more pronounced mental health concerns. As a result of this emerging science, researchers continue to investigate a potential vitamin D antidepressant.

2. Vitamin D promotes bone health in the elderly

Osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become brittle and weak, affects 16% of all seniors, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The condition carries serious health risks, potentially leading to fallsand other dangerous home safety situations. The clear connection between vitamin D and bone health in the elderly helps seniors defend against bone softening.

For added effectiveness, older adults should pair the recommended vitamin D dosage for seniors with calcium. A 2019 American Medical Association analysis of 49,000 participants found that seniors who combined adequate vitamin D levels with sufficient calcium intake reduced their risk of hip fractures by 16%.

3. Vitamin D helps prevent cancers and infections

Seniors who want to be proactive about their health should turn to vitamin D. Scientists cite the important nutrient as a preventive treatment for everything from colon cancer to the flu.

Because of vitamin D’s ability to manage immune cells, taking the recommended dose of vitamin D for seniors can decrease the risks of colon cancer and blood cancers, specifically. Recent research from the University of Eastern Finland also suggests reduced mortality among some cancer patients treated with vitamin D.

In addition to fending off life-threatening and chronic diseases, vitamin D can help boost a senior’s immune system to defeat more everyday illnesses like colds, the flu, and other respiratory conditions. A global study incorporating 25 clinical trials reported that vitamin D promotes “natural antibiotic-like substances” in the lungs.

4. Vitamin D protects oral health

Often, aging makes dental care more difficult to manage. While getting older brings an increased likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay, vitamin D provides a strong defense.

In a study of 67 dental patients, those with higher vitamin D levels exhibited a lower likelihood of contracting oral-health diseases — the most prominent cause of senior tooth decay and loss. This research has been reaffirmed by many other studies, all of which note the link between vitamin D and the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Calcium deficiency, a symptom of vitamin D deficiency in elderly adults, puts seniors at an increased risk for gum disease.

5. Vitamin D may lower Parkinson’s risks

Parkinson’s disease, which occurs when neurons in the brain deteriorate and cause muscle tremors and rigidity, is more common among older adults. In fact, aging stands out as the number one risk factor for Parkinson’s, with 5% of adults over the age of 85 developing the condition.

Getting the recommended dose of vitamin D for seniors may help elderly adults reduce their risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and it can even help alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms after diagnosis. A study of 182 patients with Parkinson’s and 185 people without the condition found that Parkinson’s patients had significantly lower levels of vitamin D than their healthy peers did.

How to get the recommended dose of vitamin D for seniors

When it comes to vitamin D for seniors, dosage recommendations increase after the age of 71: from 15 micrograms to 20 micrograms. Older adults have a greater need for vitamin D due to being at a higher risk for conditions like osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. 

There are several ways for older adults to supplement vitamin D naturally:

  • Sunshine is one of the best natural sources of vitamin D. Take an afternoon walk or invest in a UV lamp for colder months.
  • One tablespoon of cod liver oil supplements 170% of daily vitamin D.
  • Four or five sliced white mushrooms make up half of the needed vitamin D intake. 
  • Three ounces of cooked salmon accounts for more than 80% of necessary vitamin D. Tunaoysters, and shrimp also contain high amounts of vitamin D.

Highly absorbable forms of vitamin D in pill, gummy, or liquid form are also available at your local health food store. After ruling out medication interactions or other health risks, a doctor or dietitian may recommend a vitamin D supplement beyond natural sources.

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Sources:

Kweder, H. and Eidi, H.“Vitamin D deficiency in elderly: Risk factors and drugs impact on vitamin D status.”

Madi et al. “The association between vitamin D level and periodontal disease in Saudi population, a preliminary study.”

National Institutes of Health. “Vitamin D.”

Yao et al. “Vitamin D and Calcium for the Prevention of Fracture.”

Zhang et al. “Relationship between 25-Hydroxyvitamin D, bone density, and Parkinson’s disease symptoms.”

Author
Kara Lewis

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