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Walkin’ on Sunshine AND Vitamin D—Why a Little of Both Is Best for Seniors During Colder Months

By: Integrity Home Care + Hospice

While the letter “D” may have gotten a bad rap at school, its vitamin form transforms it into a veritable letter superhero. Vitamin D fights off villains like dementia and depression while simultaneously decreasing fall risk and bone turnover. 

It’s a busy little vitamin, and especially important for older adults who may be receiving in-home care services due to conditions such as decreased coordination and balance, cognitive decline, or other chronic diseases of aging. In this blog by Integrity Home Care + Hospice, we’ll explain why vitamin D is such a workhorse for the human body and explore the best ways to make sure you aren’t at risk for a deficiency.

Vitamin D—What is it good for? 

Absolutely something! A lot of somethings, as it turns out. Current evidence cited by the NIH tells us that abnormally low vitamin D levels can contribute to a slew of diseases associated with aging—hypertension, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis, to name just a few. Many of these conditions that occur with aging are seen in patients who begin in-home care services with Integrity. Additionally, as we age, our risk for trauma associated with falls becomes a heightened concern. 

But guess which vitamin has been positively correlated with decreased risk of traumatic fall injury? You guessed it! In fact, one study found a 20% reduction in non-vertebral fractures and hip fractures among participants with a daily intake of vitamin D greater than 400 IU. (As always, check with your doctor to find the most appropriate supplementation dosage for you!)

What’s the best way to get enough Vitamin D? 

Unless you love oily fish (cod-liver oil, anyone?), you’ll need some additional sources of this potent little protector. So, you can either wash those sardines down with a glass of vitamin D-fortified milk or orange juice, or you can pop a daily vitamin D supplement. For our older adults receiving in-home care services, however, it may be more beneficial (and enjoyable, let’s be honest…fish and OJ?) to utilize natural sunlight to boost their vitamin D reserves. 

How does vitamin D improve our moods?

When UV-B rays in sunlight are absorbed by the skin and processed by our liver and kidneys, the result is usable vitamin D-3. Along with the plentiful benefits that come with healthy vitamin D reserves, exposure to sunlight in safe quantities has been shown to decrease the excess melatonin production that occurs in winter months and is linked to a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Sunlight has also been shown to boost our serotonin levels, helping us stay energized, calm, and focused—even more important when we may be stuck indoors during months of colder weather. So, bundle up, pick your favorite spot on the porch or park bench, and let the sunlight do its thing.

A word of caution—as with all good things, moderation is the key. Too much direct sunlight can cause skin damage or lead to cancers of the skin, and too much vitamin D supplementation can lead to dangerously high levels of serum calcium, causing cardiovascular health degeneration in older adults. 

Here to Help at Integrity Home Care 

If you’re currently receiving in-home care, talk with your caregiving team about the best way for you to keep your vitamin D reserves healthy and full this winter. If you have any questions about getting started with home health services from Integrity Home Care, just give us a call at 1.855.442.4968. We’re here for you. There with you. All along the way. 

Low leg view of couple walking dog