Older adults and Vitamin D

Think you're getting enough vitamin D? Research suggests the recommended daily dose of vitamin D should be much higher than you think.

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to the development of osteoporosis because it reduces calcium absorption. In older people, low vitamin D levels have been associated with an increased risk of falling. Higher vitamin D levels have been associated with stronger bones (greater bone mineral density).

Preliminary evidence suggests vitamin D may aid in cancer prevention by blocking cell growth and differentiation (cells mature and take on a specialized form and function). Since the late 1980s, the risk of developing and dying from breast, prostate, ovarian, and other cancers has been found to be increased in geographic areas located at higher latitudes, where there's less sun exposure, and with vitamin D deficiency.

The main source of vitamin D comes from exposure to the sun's UVB rays. The American Academy of Dermatology advises that we obtain vitamin D from foods and supplements rather than UV exposure, because of the risk of skin cancer.

New information from the International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends a daily dose of 800-1,000 IU per day of vitamin D for older adults, with some people in higher risk groups (obese, housebound with little sunlight, or with absorption problems) getting much more than that.

Older people are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, as the ability to produce vitamin D dwindles with age. In fact, vitamin D levels in elderly subjects have been found to be approximately 30 percent of the levels found in young adults.

It's estimated more than 50 percent of adults over age 50 in the United States and Europe are at risk of vitamin D deficiency. A simple blood test will determine if you're getting enough vitamin D; check with your doctor and follow his or her recommendation about how much vitamin D you need.

The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620. Information is also periodically provided by the Behavioral Health Services North Caregiver Resource Center. They may be reached at 565-4543 or 565-4625.

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