After a long, cold winter, many people find themselves suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. We may see a significant increase in vitamin D deficiency this spring due to the months of quarantining at home because of COVID-19. That’s because a lack of exposure to sunlight translates to less vitamin D production.

There are other medical conditions that can cause low vitamin D, such as obesity, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease. These health issues make it more difficult for the body to process and absorb vitamins and minerals.

Knowing how much vitamin D you need in a day and how to work it into your daily diet is an important part of successful aging.

Vitamin D and Healthy Aging

Getting the right amount of vitamin D is important for everything from quality sleep to cancer prevention. Here are a few problems that can occur when the body is deficient in this essential vitamin:

  • Cancer: Vitamin D deficiency is linked to higher rates of some forms of cancer, such as prostate, thyroid, lung, and breast.
  • Dementia: There is evidence that seems to indicate low vitamin D may put people at increased risk for cognitive decline and dementia.
  • Heart disease: The risk for cardiac diseases also goes up when your vitamin D is low. This is especially important because heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): Studies show maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D may help prevent or treat MS, a disease that attacks the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers. It results in communication problems between the brain and the body that can be disabling.
  • Osteoporosis: Studies suggest maintaining proper levels of vitamin D and calcium can slow bone mineral loss, which helps prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures.

One challenge with preventing a vitamin D deficiency is that the symptoms can be easily overlooked. Here are a few signs to watch for in yourself or a senior loved one.

Recognizing a Vitamin D Deficiency

Recognizing a vitamin D deficiency is difficult because the symptoms are so vague. They are often mistaken as a normal sign of aging or a side effect of medication. Vitamin D deficiency symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Aching bones

Your primary care physician can order a simple 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test to make a clear diagnosis. If you are deficient, treatment will depend on the severity. Your physician may order a prescription dose of vitamin D to take once a week for a few months or an over-the-counter supplement.

Daily Recommended Dose of Vitamin D

Experts disagree on how much vitamin D we need, sometimes by fairly significant numbers. Many factors can impact how much vitamin D you need each day, such as age, weight, and chronic health conditions.

Experts from Harvard Medical School say if you’re taking a vitamin D supplement, 600 to 800 IU per day is likely adequate. People with a medical condition that impacts how vitamin D or calcium is absorbed, such as Crohn’s disease, may need more. If you are under a physician’s care, the maximum upper limit of vitamin D is 4,000 IU a day.

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