Most physicians and nutritionists recommend getting your vitamins and minerals from food versus taking supplements. One of the few exceptions to this is vitamin D, which is harder to absorb in its natural form –– especially as you age.
According to a June 2021 article from AARP, “as little as 10 to 15 minutes in the direct sun, a few days a week can give us most of the vitamin D our bodies need to maintain a healthy immune system, bones, and muscles while protecting us from cognitive decline.” Unfortunately, our body’s ability to turn sunlight into vitamin D declines significantly above the age of 70, and (even with sunscreen) more exposure is not advisable. Additionally, few Americans eat enough D-rich foods, such as fatty fish, to reach their recommended daily intake.
Reasons vitamin D is such an important nutrient for everyone, but particularly adults over 50:
- As the conduit for absorption of calcium, it is key to bone strength and prevention of muscle cramps
- It reduces inflammation and modulates glucose metabolism
- Deficiencies have been linked in some studies to an increased risk of MS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s
Vitamin D deficiency has also been observed in patients with poor cardiovascular health, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, but it is still unclear whether there is any direct correlation between low D and disease. Similarly, studies are inconclusive about whether increasing vitamin D helps alleviate disease. We are certain, however, vitamin D is an important component of overall balanced health… and nearly 1 in 4 Americans don’t get enough!
Who’s at risk of low D?
According to the National Institutes of Health, people at the highest risk of vitamin D deficiency include people who are older, have limited sun exposure, have dark skin, suffer from conditions that limit fat absorption, or are obese. If you have any concerns about your risk factors, speak to your physician; they may choose to test your vitamin D levels.
If a test determines you are low on D, what next?
The recommended daily supplement of D may vary based on gender, skin color, age, and general health. Once again, your physician will determine what’s right for you.
If you’re interested in reading more about Vitamin D, including organizations continuing to research its potential role in overall health, here are a few links to explore:
Content contained in this article is for information only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical conditions or recommend any health-related programs. Please speak to a medical professional about your health concerns and before taking any supplements or medications.