VITAMIN D NEEDS OF THE ELDERLY
To make sure that our bones remain strong and are not too easily fractured in old age, it is essential that we get not only sufficient calcium (1.5-2 grams every day) but also enough vitamin D. Since vitamin D is responsible for efficient absorption of calcium from the diet and for calcium’ s retention by the bones, lack of this vitamin is now regarded as an often overlooked factor in the loss of calcium and the fractures that occur in so many older adults.
A poor dietary intake is not the only cause of vitamin D deficiency, Geriatrics (40#8:45) reports. Other causes include chronic diarrhea, gall bladder disease, kidney failure, absence of the stomach (after its removal because of an ulcer or cancer), alcoholism, liver disease, and certain medications (anticonvulsants and some cholesterol-lowering drugs).
Another factor, Geriatrics (42#7:30) reports, is that old skin is less efficient than young skin at producing vitamin D when exposed to the ultraviolet light in sunshine. Adults, in addition, are becoming increasingly concerned (and rightfully so) about skin cancer, which is likely to occur if the skin is exposed excessively to the sun. However, while minimizing exposure of our skin to the sun, we must take care as we grow older to avoid letting ourselves become deficient of vitamin D.
Normally, we need to get at least 400 units of vitamin D every day and may need twice that much if there is any doubt about our ability to absorb it. However, adults are less likely than children to take vitamin supplements (many older people try to save money by not buying them).
To avoid a vitamin D deficiency, Geriatrics recommends, elderly persons should be exposed outdoors to sunshine at least 15 minutes twice a week. When this is not possible, it is essential that they be given a supplement of the vitamin by mouth.
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