Vitamin D deficiency is a very prevalent problem in India, especially among children and aged people, and more so in women. With age, the bones and muscles weaken. Vitamin D deficiency in the body can contribute to other issues like osteoporosis, fractures, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc. Vitamin D is essential for overall good health as it helps with improved cognition and higher immunity with lesser chances of antibiotic dependence.
Sunlight happens to be the primary source of Vitamin D for us. But if we do not spend enough time in the sun, then the deficiency can occur, as there are only very few foods that provide Vitamin D.
Vitamin D Sources
Few foods like salmon, cod liver oil, tuna, mackerel, cheese, soy milk, and eggs contain Vitamin D. You may also find few packed foods that are fortified with Vitamin D. Doctors prescribe Vitamin D supplements when they see that there is a deficiency.
Why are seniors at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?
It is said that, with age, some people lose the ability to synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight. Also, the Vitamin D that is synthesized needs to be further activated in the kidney before our body can use it. This kidney function also may decrease with age. Even the liver may not be able to process Vitamin D efficiently with age. Apart from this, with progressing age and related issues, many seniors prefer not to go out in the sun. They either spend time indoors or venture out only in the evening. That makes matters more complicated and puts them at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. The issue gets worse if somebody has put on weight with age, as the heavier the body, more the Vitamin D it needs.
The actual Vitamin D needs of the body go up with age and keep progressing beyond 50 years of age to about 600 International Units (IU) for both men and women, up from 200 IU at 40 years. Getting the adequate amount of Vitamin D helps seniors keep deadly fractures at bay as the bones remain strong and may not break easily with a simple fall.
How much sunlight is needed?
It is advised that seniors should expose themselves to mild or moderate sunlight for at least 30 minutes, twice a week. Care should be taken not to do this during the noontime when the sun is scorching; the morning sun is the preferred time. This duration may vary depending on the age, skin tone, clothing worn, season, location, the time of the day, etc.
Overexposure to UV rays can be harmful too and hence care should be taken. Some studies have proved that overexposure to sunlight can even cause skin cancer. If one has any medical issues or allergies or sensitive skin that gets easily sunburnt, then perhaps it is best to discuss with the doctor before venturing into the sunlight.