Posts Tagged ‘health’

The Dangers of Vitamin D Deficiency and How to Avoid Them


Your doctor can help assess your vitamin D levels and suggest ways to get more of it.

Your doctor can help assess your vitamin D levels and suggest ways to get more of it.

Mom always said to take our vitamins. We drank milk to make our bones strong and ate spinach to grow our muscles. Our growing bodies needed all of the strength they could get.

As adults, it’s just as important to keep up these healthy habits. Even if you take your vitamins regularly, after the long dark days of winter, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Why Do We Need Vitamin D?

Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Vitamin D is so crucial to our health that our body makes it all on its own. But there’s one important ingredient needed to do that —sunlight.

For years we have been hearing about the dangers of getting too much sun—wrinkles, sunspots and melanoma are only a few. But not getting enough sun has its dangers, too.

People who live in northern climates, those with dark skin or who spend too much time inside often do not receive enough of the sun’s rays to produce an adequate amount of vitamin D. And as an older adult, your skin doesn’t make as much of the vitamin on its own.

The Dangers of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D keeps bones healthy by increasing your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Vitamin D deficiency causes bones to weaken and become soft. This is called rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

Soft bones are more likely to bend, deform and fracture. Aches and pains, particularly in combination with fatigue, are classic symptoms.

As an older adult, you have a greater risk of falling down. Strong bones are better able to withstand falls without breaking. A lack of vitamin D increases your risk of hip and other non-spinal fractures. With weak bones, a fall can turn into a life-altering disaster.

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to an increased risk for numerous serious diseases. The list includes breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and autoimmune disorders.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency was rare when we spent most of our days outside tending crops. Now that we spend most of our time indoors, we have to think about how we’re getting our vitamin D. You may be at risk if:

  • You don’t get enough sun. If you live in a northern climate (above the line between Philadelphia and San Francisco) or spend most of your time indoors, you may not be getting enough of the sun’s rays.
  • You have dark skin. The pigment in your skin limits your body’s ability to capture vitamin D.
  • You’re obese. If you have a BMI over 30, your body is less efficient at creating vitamin D.
  • You don’t eat enough foods with vitamin D. Vegans are particularly at risk. Vitamin D is rare in food, but you can find it in animal-based foods like egg yolks, cheese, fish and fish oils, fortified milk and beef liver.
  • You have a digestive disease. If you have Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis or celiac disease, your intestines can’t properly absorb the vitamin D from food.
  • You’re over 65. As we age, our bodies produce less vitamin D, even with regular sun exposure.

How to Get Enough Vitamin D

You could get vitamin D the old-fashioned way, by exposing your skin to sunlight. Without sunscreen, it doesn’t take much. The problem is that it’s easy to overdose. Too much sun is not only painful—it also increases your risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging.

Your other options are food and supplements.

  • Vitamin-rich food. Vitamin D is rare in food. Your best source is fish and shellfish—oil fish like salmon, halibut, cod and tuna are best. Egg yolks are a source of vitamin D, but they also contain nearly a day’s quota of cholesterol. Keep an eye out for milk, orange juice and cereals that are vitamin D fortified.
  • Most people require supplements to get the vitamin D they need. Read the labels carefully so you don’t get too little or too much. Make a note of how many other vitamins are in the supplements before you take them. Cod liver oil is a rich source, but it has too much vitamin A for regular use. A doctor may suggest you get tested to determine whether you’re vitamin D deficient and to see how much you need.

Stay Strong and Healthy

As an older adult, it’s essential to stay on top of the changes occurring in your body. Talk with your doctor and make sure your vitamin D levels are where they should be. Vitamin D deficiency can be subtle, but its effects can be devastating. Vitamin D keeps your bones healthy. The stronger your bones are, the stronger you’ll be.


Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.


Aging America: Affecting a Grocery Store Near You

You can expect to see some changes on your local grocery store shelves in 2012, according to a new report from Leatherhead Food Research, a U.K.-based market research firm. The aging population means changing consumer demands, so you can expect to see more foods with added health benefits (or claims of added health benefits). Further, younger consumers with food intolerances and preferences will drive demand for gluten-free items and dairy alternatives.

The reason for this major shift is due to the Baby Boomer generation entering its senior years. Baby Boomers are savvy consumers and don’t take their health lightly, so they’ll be looking for products that can help maintain good health as they age. Items like glucosamine (for joint health) and omega-3 fatty acids (for brain function) are top on the list of desires for this group.

Also important? Heart health. Researchers anticipate that demands will drive growth in this department, with product launches that claim to improve heart health by reducing plague buildup in arteries.

Even the younger consumer groups are impacting change in terms of food products. Food allergies, as well as a preference for cutting out certain harmful ingredients, will drive sales of gluten-free, dairy-free, reduced sugar and reduced fat food products in the coming years. Nuts, also a common and sometimes dangerous allergy, are also on the hit list. Researchers anticipate more nut-free foods over the next year or so.

Seniors will drive food trends in 2012.

Image by lusi on Stock.xchng

The New York Daily News covers this new research and also points out some other up-and-coming food trends courtesy of Leatherhead:

  • Reductions in fat, salt and sugar (big diet no-nos) will be common as manufacturers strive to meet nutritional guidelines.
  • Convenience is still important. Even retired Boomers have busy lives, so prepared and time-saving  meals will continue to be popular.
  • Natural and organics will get a boost. Consumers are looking towards natural products, free of dyes and additives that have a reputation for being harmful over time or causing gastrointestinal upset. Organic produce and meats, among other items, will be commonplace.
  • Buying local. Consumers are looking to boost their local economies, as well as cut down on transport costs, so they’ll be increasingly seeking out locally-produced foods.
  • Eco-friendly packaging. In tune with the organic and natural trend, packaging will also become more environmentally-friendly, making use of recycled materials when possible and an overall reduction in packaging.
  • Flavor, flavor, flavor! Expect to see bold flavors and added use of spices to compensate for the flavors lost in the reduction of fat, sugar and salt.

And if you’re looking to start a healthier lifestyle for 2012, check out these resources to get you motivated!

The USDA has a cool feature that allows you to track both your food intake (per the food pyramid – er, plate – guidelines) and physical activity.

U.S. News and World Report has a basic article with tips for senior diet and exercise — oldie, but a goodie.

WebMD explains why it’s never too late to get started with a healthy diet and exercise plan.

SeniorFitness is a complete website dedicated to providing resources and advice for older people who want to start a fitness routine. Check out their article on planning a menu for weight loss.

Do you have a favorite website or app that helps you track your diet and fitness? A great resource for seniors who want to start eating healthier or living a more active lifestyle? Let us know in the comments so we can share it with our audience!