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Seniors, Sun and Vitamin D

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Seniors, Sun and Vitamin D

Baby boomers and seniors grew up soaking up the sun.  Of course, they didn’t know then what we know now about sun safety.  Seniors today are getting mixed messages: stay out of the sun but be sure to get your vitamin D. 

Some experts recommend seniors need more vitamin D, and that’s true.  Seniors tend to produce less vitamin D on their own and spend less time in the sun when they actually need to spend more. Before age 50, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is just 200 international units (IU).  Between 50 and 70, that amount increases to 600 IU and after age 70, a whopping 800 IU.  Some doctors say receiving more would be better.

What are the consequences if someone doesn’t hit their recommended RDA?

Actually, seniors that don’t get the recommended daily allowance can have some serious health conditions. Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium, which is something the human body needs for a lot of reasons, including healthy teeth and bones.  Here are just some of the health risks associated with a vitamin D deficiency:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Falls – which may result in broken bones
  • Decreased mobility
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Cognitive decline
  • Depression

How can seniors get the recommended daily allowance? 

The easiest and most recommended source is sunshine.  In fact, vitamin D is often called the “Sunshine Vitamin”.  The amount of time needed to spend in the sun varies by a person’s skin color, the time of day, and geographical location.  A mere 15 minutes may be enough for a fair skinned person to achieve their RDA, while it could take more than an hour for someone with darker skin. It is important to keep in mind that skin has to be exposed to reap the benefits – no long sleeves or sunscreen. The majority of doctors agree that 20 – 25 minutes exposed in sunshine should suffice. 

To be safe, avoid getting sun exposure during the peak of the day.  It’s best to go out before 10:00 a.m. or after 3:00 p.m.  If someone thinks he or she needs more Vitamin D or doesn’t feel comfortable spending time in the sun (or is under doctor’s orders to stay away), he or she can get Vitamin D through the use of supplements; drinking fortified milk and orange juice; consuming fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel; or eating cereal, egg yolks or liver.

It’s important for everybody to get the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D, but it is especially important for seniors. Having a Vitamin D deficiency can cause a whole slew of health problems that can be avoided otherwise.

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