A recent study by the University of Chicago Medicine found that higher vitamin D levels may lower the risk of being infected by Covid-19, especially in African Americans1. Hypovitaminosis D or vitamin D deficiency has become a public health risk in older people. Vitamin D deficiency occurs when your body is unable to produce sufficient levels of vitamin D. It is estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide, mainly older people, are affected by vitamin D deficiency. It causes many global health risks such as osteoporosis, bone fractures, disability, diabetes, and other serious problems 2.
Vitamin D helps absorb calcium from your body to strengthen your bones and has been recently found to help reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection. Vitamin D is obtained by exposure of the skin to the sun and is by our brain to function properly. Many foods naturally contain vitamin D including, egg yolks, salmon, fish, and beef liver. Since vitamin D plays such a vital role in our health, many fortified foods have been made to provide vitamin D, such as fruit juices, cereals, and milk 3.
Why are seniors at significant risk of Vitamin D deficiency?
Not only do older individuals lose some ability to make vitamin D from sunlight, due to immobility and restricted exposure to sunlight, the chances for vitamin D deficiency increase for seniors. The function for the activation of vitamin D in kidneys is also reduced in people with advanced age. Outdoor physical activity and exercise can reduce the risk of hypovitaminosis D. According to a survey in 2011, about 41% of people aged above 65 were vitamin D deficient in the United States. 68% of Hispanics and 81% of African Americans are at significant risk of vitamin D deficiency 3.
Risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency:
The following risk factors can cause vitamin D deficiency:
- Skin color: People who have dark skin tone can produce less vitamin D. Fair-skinned people make more vitamin D.
- Obesity: Older people with BMI greater than 30 produce low vitamin D levels because fat cells in obese people do not let their release.
- Cystic Fibrosis: In cystic fibrosis, the intestines cannot absorb enough vitamin D, thus causing vitamin D deficiency.
- Liver and kidney diseases: Vitamin D needs to be converted into an enzyme’s active form. Due to kidney and liver diseases, this enzyme does not convert vitamin D into an active state. A deficiency of vitamin D occurs 3.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency:
- Weakness of muscles
- Cognitive decline
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Difficulty indigestion
- Lower back pain
- Prolonged wound healing
Health Risks of Vitamin D deficiency:
- Diabetes: The people with old age having diabetes are at significant risk of vitamin D deficiency. In Finland, about 50% of people have vitamin D deficiency because of diabetes.
- Multiple sclerosis: Older people with multiple sclerosis are more prone to have hypovitaminosis D. Also, Older people who live farther away from the equator have multiple sclerosis. These areas have less sunlight; therefore, the chances for hypovitaminosis D are increased.
- Cognitive Disorders: A healthy nervous system requires adequate amounts of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency causes brain development complications. The older patients having Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, dementia, and depression are vitamin D deficient 4.
- Cardiovascular Diseases: Hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, and myocardial infarction have also been associated with vitamin D. According to a research study, advanced peripheral arterial disease (PAD) has a close relationship with lower levels of vitamin D.
The Bottom Line:
Radiant Health Services coordinates with your doctor to make sure that you are achieving your maximum potential health. We use a qualified RN to continuously assess your care. We report any adverse reactions to medicines you are currently taking and notify your doctor of any signs that may require new medications. If you believe that you may have signs of vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor about possible solutions.
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- Alison Caldwell, Ph.D. “Study Suggests High Vitamin D Levels May Protect against COVID-19, Especially for Black People.” UChicago Medicine, UChicago Medicine, 19 Mar. 2021, www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/vitamin-d-covid-study.
- Boucher, B. J. The problems of vitamin D insufficiency in older people. Aging Dis. 3, 313–329 (2012).
- Meehan, M. & Penckofer, S. The Role of Vitamin D in the Aging Adult. J. Aging Gerontol. 2, 60–71 (2014).
- Parva, N. R. et al. Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency and Associated Risk Factors in the US Population (2011-2012). Cureus 10, (2018).
- Miller, J. W. et al. Vitamin D status and cognitive decline rates in a multiethnic cohort of older adults. JAMA Neurol. 72, 1295–1303 (2015).