Seniors, Spend More Time Under The Sun
It’s popular parenting advice: babies need to be exposed to the sun for vitamin D. Exposure to ultraviolet B radiation from the sun prompts our bodies to produce this natural hormone. What most people have forgotten, however, is that we need even more vitamin D as we grow old.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as sunbathing anymore. Being over 50 increases risks for vitamin D deficiency because the skin can’t make it as efficiently as before. Aging also causes impaired intestinal absorption of this essential vitamin. A study published in 2014 showed that 3 out of 5 Filipinos suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Dr. Alejandro Diaz of the Philippine Neurological Association suggests that the natural tan complexion of Filipinos is a factor in vitamin D deficiency. Doctors involved in the report have endorsed the daily intake of vitamin D supplements as a preventive measure (“3 out of 5 Filipinos suffer from Vit-D deficiency”, 2014).
But what is so important about vitamin D anyway? Why is it necessary to get 800 IU (about 25 mcg) of it everyday? We thought you might ask that, so we went right ahead and listed down reasons for anyone — seniors especially — to consider getting more vitamin D.
1. It promotes immune function.
The active form of vitamin D boosts immune cells’ production of microbe-fighting proteins. It plays a vital role in fighting different types of infections (Baron-Faust, 2013). Several studies also suggest that it protects us from flu, tuberculosis, and multiple sclerosis (Munger et al, 2006).
2. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Patients with vitamin D deficiency have a 40% risk of schemic heart disease and 64% greater chance of heart attack. A study also reported that an optimal level of vitamin D in the blood can cut the number of Type 1 diabetes cases in half — but that would mean needing up to 4000 IU of vitamin D daily, five times the minimum amount required (Baron-Faust, 2013).
3. It aids in bone and muscle development, function, and preservation.
Bones may lose bone tissue without vitamin D, which may lead to bone pain, muscle weakness, and possible skeletal deformity. Because the vitamin improves bone and muscle metabolism, the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) released a statement discussing the major impact vitamin D deficiency has on falls and osteoporotic fractures (Dawson-Hughes et al, 2010). Vitamin D also plays a part in reducing inflammation and promoting cell growth.
4. It contributes to better brain health.
While higher vitamin D levels are associated with a significant decrease in depression, low levels are linked with the acceleration of cognitive decline in older adults. Deficiency shows up to 2.5 times faster decline in episodic memory and executive function (Miller et al, 2015).