A vitamin D deficiency can have serious health effects, particularly poor muscle health, in older people. It’s natural that the elderly spend the majority of their time indoors, getting minimal exposure to natural sunlight. New findings from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing suggest vitamin D is important in determining the severity of COVID-19 infections.
To help sustain muscle health, vitamin D helps the elderly maintain their mobility and independence as it fights against autoimmune disorders and other ailments according to Irish Health. This greatly reduces the risk of falls, fractures and even high blood pressure. It’s important to get enough of the vitamin into the system through diet or sunlight.
A number of factors can play a role in vitamin D deficiencies in older adults. In addition to minimal exposure to natural sunlight due to spending so much time indoors, as the skin thins with age, vitamin D synthesis becomes much less efficient. Reduced appetite and impaired absorption of nutrients further compound this problem for seniors.
There are numerous factors that can affect the elderly’s ability to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D through the sun alone. These factors include:
• Spending more time indoors
• Living in big cities where buildings block sunlight
• Having darker skin. (Higher levels of melanin, the less vitamin D the skin can absorb.)
Why Vitamin D is important
Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sunlight. It helps the body absorb calcium, which is essential for developing strong bones. Our bodies produce vitamin D naturally when directly exposed to sunlight. With the lockdown restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be harder for the elderly to get that much-needed sunlight to boost their vitamin D production. If our bodies don’t get enough vitamin D, it’s possible to lose bone tissue, leading to, muscle weakness and bone pain.
BENEFITS OF VITAMIN D
Combating Immunodeficiency Diseases
Vitamin D is reported to reduce the elderly’s risk of multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis, commonly known as MS, is a chronic illness that involves your immune system attacking your central nervous system (CNS). This results in inflammation and the formation of scar tissue. When your nervous system is damaged, it can be difficult for your brain to send signals to the rest of your body. Lack of Vitamin D may cause more bruises and open skin tears.
Fights off Depression
A study found that people who suffered from depression and received vitamin D supplements, noticed an improvement in their mood. Vitamin D is converted by the body into an active hormone which is believed to help with the release of dopamine and serotonin in the brain that influences moods. Seniors who feel depressed and tired all the time may actually suffer from vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency.
Having high vitamin D levels may contribute to a boost in cognitive aptitude reduce a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Restrict that weight gain
Vitamin D plays an integral role in appetite regulation and weight loss as well as it has an appetite-suppressing effect. Vitamin D controls the levels of leptin, a hormone that inhibits hunger and reduces fat storage. When an elderly person is deficient in vitamin D, the signals sent to the brain can be disrupted resulting in the body’s inability to process when to stop eating. This can make people overeat and gain weight. It’s important to consider adding vitamin D supplements to your diet as it not only helps with weight, but it also assists in preventing heart disease.
With the current lockdown restrictions, now more than ever, it’s important for the elderly to get some of their vitamin D from sources besides sunlight — through certain foods and supplements to ensure adequate levels of the vitamin in your blood.
At SA-Homecare, Our Frail@Home care service is designed for the elderly and frail, and those suffering from Dementia and other chronic diseases and disabilities.