As we age the skin's ability to produce vitamin D decreases and we require more exposure to sunlight. Nursing home patients may be affected as they often don't get the opportunity to go outside and get direct sunlight. Without adequate levels of vitamin D, calcium can't be absorbed optimally by your body.
Calcium deficiency may lead to brittle bones and even osteoporosis (a condition that weakens the bones to the point of fracture) later in life. Being frail, these elderly people are often at risk of falling and suffering a fractured bone.
"There are various forms of vitamin D. Vitamin D3 - the natural form of vitamin D made in your body – lasts longer in the body than vitamin D2 and can help preserve bone density and muscle strength," says Professor Rebecca Mason of the Skin and Bone Laboratory, Sydney University
In this day and age we are all too aware of the damaging effects of the sun. Sunscreen, protective clothing and ‘slip-slop-slapping' all of the time can prevent us from getting enough vitamin D from exposure to sunlight's ultraviolet-B rays.
These days many of us also lead lifestyles that include working indoors for long periods during the day. We leave for work early in the morning and return home after dark which limits our sunlight exposure during the week. Current lifestyle and work environments may be contributing to a decrease in vitamin D intake in Australia.
"People with darker skin are at risk of being vitamin D deficient because they are 3 to 10 times less efficient at producing vitamin D from sunlight than fair-skinned people," says Professor Rebecca Mason. "If you find that you are not getting enough sunlight in the course of your daily life, consider taking a high strength supplement, increasing your calcium intake and doing some exercise."
So, how can you avoid vitamin D deficiency?
- Short, bursts of sunlight - 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine most days is adequate to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D (avoid peak daylight times, it is important to balance the need for sunshine against the risk of skin cancer) Regular exercise – walking, running, weights and swimming are all good choices Ensure adequate calcium intake – vitamin D helps with calcium absorption to maintain strong and healthy bones Vitamin D can be absorbed from foods - margarine, eggs, salmon, sardines, herrings, mackerel, swordfish and other oily fish all contain small amounts of vitamin D Where vitamin D intake is insufficient consider taking a supplement like the new high strength Blackmores Vitamin D3 which can increase the absorption of calcium into the bloodstream and bones.