Vitamin D Deficiency: Why Seniors Are at Increased Risk during the Winter

Sunrise Senior Living  |  January 18, 2019
Vitamin D Deficiency: Why Seniors Are at Increased Risk during the Winter
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Vitamins and minerals are essential for optimum health. Unfortunately, many older adults are at increased risk of deficiencies for many reasons. A leading cause is that the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients decreases with age. It can put the senior at risk for illnesses such as osteoporosis, heart disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and even some forms of cancer.

One vitamin that older adults are more deficient in during the winter is vitamin D. Seniors in colder climates spend less time outdoors during these icy, snowy months. That means they aren’t exposed to direct sunlight.

A lack of sunlight results in less vitamin D being produced in the body. Because vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods, the problem is further compounded.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Really Need Each Day?

Experts don’t agree on how much vitamin D people need each day. Two leading organizations that do agree, however, are The Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health and The Institute of Medicine.

Both suggest the following vitamin D guidelines:

  • 600 international units (IU) per day for children and adults up to the age of 70
  • 800 international units per day for adults over the age of 70

While these two organizations agree, there are others who say the number should be much higher. Some physicians say 1,000 IUs a day should be the target for older adults to have optimum bone health.

Common Symptoms of a Vitamin D Deficiency

Recognizing a vitamin D deficiency in an older loved one is difficult. Because the symptoms are vague, they can be easily overlooked or mistaken for something else.

The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency in an older adult might include:

  • fatigue and overall weakness
  • muscle pain and muscle fatigue
  • swelling and pain in bones and joints
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sweating despite not feeling hot.

If your older loved one doesn’t get outdoors much, it’s a good idea for the two of you to talk with the senior’s physician about a possible deficiency. The doctor can order a simple blood test to make the determination.

If the test results show a deficiency, the physician will likely recommend either an over-the-counter supplement or a higher prescription dosage. Depending upon how deficient the older adult is, their doctor might recommend a prescription dose of vitamin D for a few months or more.

Resources for Family Caregivers

Because we know the 65 million family caregivers across this country often seek information and resources to learn more about caring for a senior, we dedicated a section of our website to caregiver support. You’ll find videos and articles on topics ranging from senior driver safety to affording senior care.

If you have a question you don’t see answered in our Caregiver Support area, please call us at 888-434-4648. One of our experienced team members will be happy to help!