Vitamin D and Seniors
A lack of Vitamin D may contribute to osteoporosis, muscle weakness, hip fractures, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and overall poor health for seniors.
But not many foods contain Vitamin D. The best food sources of Vitamin D are cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, beef liver cheese and egg yolks. Other foods are commonly fortified with added Vitamin D such as milk, breakfast cereals and juice drinks.
Actually the best source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Sunlight converts cholesterol to Vitamin D in the body…amazing! However, as people age, their body loses some of the ability to synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D also needs to be activated in the kidney before it can be used by the body and this function also decreases with age.
Do I Need Vitamin D Supplements?
The homebound are especially at risk for Vitamin D deficiency because they do not get outside much for exercise and activity. It is believed that up to 30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week will make a sufficient amount of Vitamin D from sunlight. Therefore Vitamin D supplements are necessary for many seniors.
The best dosage for seniors is 400 International Units (IU) daily. For some especially prone to fractures, 800 IUs is recommended. Too much Vitamin D may result in nausea and vomiting, mental confusion and heart arrhythmias. Talk to your healthcare provider about the need for Vitamin D and how much is the proper amount for you.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is vital to red blood cell production and the proper function of nerve cells. The most common problems related to low Vitamin B12 are anemia, neuropathy and cognitive impairment such as memory problems, irritability and dementia.
Seniors are particularly susceptible to low Vitamin B12 because with age, the body loses the ability to absorb Vitamin B12 through the stomach and intestine. Often this is due to age-related circumstances like low levels of stomach acid, medications like metformin (for diabetes treatment), alcoholism, surgeries that remove parts of the stomach or small intestine and diseases like Crohn’s disease.
A Vitamin B12 deficiency is often missed because symptoms like fatigue, anemia, neuropathy, memory problems, walking difficulties could easily be caused by something else. A blood test can determine a Vitamin B12 deficiency and a doctor can order oral B12 supplements or injections to restore proper levels of Vitamin B12.
Questions about Vitamin D or B12? AW can help. Call (314) 726-5600 and speak with one of our nurses knowledgeable in vitamin deficiencies.