Vitamin D, What It Is And Why You Need it For Optimal Health

Vitamin D is called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ since your body produces it in response to sun exposure. You can also get your daily dosage through food and supplements.

Vitamin D is important for a number of reasons. It helps protect against a range of conditions such as cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.

The list of health benefits provided by this vitamin is impressive. For example:

  • Maintains the health of bones and teeth.
  • Supports your immune system, brain, and nervous system.
  • Regulates insulin levels and aids diabetes management.
  • Supports lung function and cardiovascular health.

 

Despite its name, it is considered a hormone and not a vitamin.

Vitamins are nutrients that cannot be created by the body and therefore must be taken in through our diet. However, vitamin D is different in that it can be synthesized by our body when sunlight hits our skin.

Exposure to the sun for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows most people to produce sufficient vitamin amounts, but it breaks down quite quickly, especially in winter.

 

 

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Vitamin D: Recommended Intake

Vitamin D intake can be measured in two ways: in micrograms (mcg) and International Units (IU).

One microgram of vitamin D is equal to 40 IU of vitamin D.

Here are the recommended dosages per age groups:

  • Infants 0-12 months – 400 IU (10 mcg).
  • Children 1-18 years – 600 IU (15 mcg).
  • Adults to age 70 – 600 IU (15 mcg).
  • Adults over 70 – 800 IU (20 mcg).
  • Pregnant or lactating women – 600 IU (15 mcg).

As you can see, daily recommendations for seniors are the highest for any of the age groups. This makes sense as seniors are most susceptible to brittle bones and frail immune systems.

 

Cancer Prevention

Vitamin D regulates cell growth and for cell-to-cell communication. Some studies suggest that it slows the development of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue, and increases cancer cell death.

Moreover, vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s disease.

What Happens If You Have A Deficiency

Although your body can create vitamin D, you c an still have a deficiency. there are many reasons this can occur. The use of sunscreen reduces the body’s ability to absorb the ultraviolet radiation B (UVB) rays from the sun needed to produce vitamin D.

Symptoms of deficiency can include the following:

  • Getting sick or infected more often.
  • Fatigue.
  • Painful bones and back.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Impaired wound healing.
  • Hair loss.
  • Muscle pain.

If the deficiency continues for long periods of time it can result in:

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • hypertension
  • depression
  • fibromyalgia
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • osteoporosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease

 

Vitamin D: Importance To Senior Citizens

Aging, even in healthy elderly people, comes with a reduction in muscle mass and muscle strength. The gradual loss of muscle strength results in functional impairment, caregiver help in the performance of daily activities, and a high risk of falling and  fractures.

Seniors can easily develop low levels of this vitamin due to poor diet, diminished sunlight exposure, and reduced skin thickness. Therefore, it’s important that they either improve their diets or take supplements.

Seniors aged 71 and over should get 800 IU. A blood test can tell whether you are getting the right amount of vitamin D. Bear in mind that too much vitamin D can also have serious health effects.

Seniors should talk to their doctor before taking supplements to determine if they are necessary and to rule out any potential interactions with current prescription medications.

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