Since childhood most of us have been encouraged to drink our milk. You probably already know that the calcium and vitamin D it contains are good for keeping bones healthy. But because vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in very many foods, it is easier to develop a deficiency. This is especially true for those who live in northern climates, like Michigan, where people spend less time outdoors during winter months.

Health Problems Linked to Low Vitamin D

Over the past decade, scientists have discovered a variety of ways that a vitamin D deficiency can negatively impact our health as we age.

Here are a few of the problems associated with a vitamin D deficiency:

  • Earlier Stages: The earliest problems caused by a vitamin D deficiency include muscle pain, gait disturbances, fatigue and overall muscular weakness.
  • Advanced Deficiency: A more serious deficiency in vitamin D can lead to deep bone pain and fractures. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to greater risk of coronary and vascular diseases, as well as prostate, breast and colon cancer.

What can you and the senior you love do to keep vitamin D levels where they need to be?

Here are a few suggestions:

Overcoming a Vitamin D Deficiency

  1. Food Choices: Consume foods rich in vitamin D. Healthy options to consider are fresh or canned salmon, milk, tuna, and mushrooms. Other foods often enriched or fortified with vitamin D include soy products, breakfast cereals, orange juice, eggs, and some dairy.
  2. Sunlight: Limited sun exposure might also help. While it is important to exercise caution and limit exposure to small amounts without sunscreen, sunlight often improves vitamin D levels. Talk with your physician to see if 20 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week might be beneficial.
  3. Supplements: While most doctors and nutritionists like to see essential vitamins and nutrients coming from healthy food choices, most also recognize that vitamin D can be tough to maintain strictly through diet. Ask your doctor for a recommended daily dosage.

Finally, one resource you might find helpful is a booked called, The Vitamin D Solution. It was written by Dr. Michael Holick, a leading vitamin D expert.

The Wellness Model at Heritage Senior Communities

Residents who call a Heritage Senior community home benefit from our Wellness Model approach to living. Our Assisted Living Centers use this blend of social and health services to maximize the overall “wellness” of each resident. Through it we address issues ranging from a healthy diet to spiritual needs.


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