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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vitamin D and the Elderly


There has been a lot of research published on vitamin D and the effects of Vitamin D deficiency. Why isn't every senior in America on Vitamin D?

By Angil Tarach RN GCM

Vitamin D and the Elderly
I am not saying every single senior in America has a Vitamin D deficiency, but I would venture to guess the numbers of senior who are is staggering.

Many seniors spend day after day indoors without any direct sunlight. It would be a rare older adult who consumes enough Vitamin D in their diet to have a sufficient intake.

So why aren’t physicians testing every older adult in America for a Vitamin D deficiency?

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Without a big technical explanation of what Vitamin D does in and for the human body I will simplify it as much as possible to help you understand the need of having a sufficient amount on a daily basis.

Vitamin D works in unison with Calcium to keep bones and muscles healthy and strong, preventing osteoporosis. Calcium is not absorbed and distributed appropriately without Vitamin D. On its own Vitamin D doesn’t do very much. There are specific functions within the body that only work correctly by Vitamin D.

Without strong and healthy muscles and bones the elderly are at risk for falls, fractures, and even death. Visiting Angels and Temple University developed a Fall Prevention Program which provides fall statistics.

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Falls are the second leading cause of death in the US, with 75% of those falls occurring in the older population. There is evidence that supplemental Vitamin D in nursing home residents reduces the risk of falls and subsequent injuries.

The hormone Calcitonin, which is released from the thyroid gland, can cause cartilage to degrade if Vitamin D didn’t inhibit that process. So in essence this very important vitamin can help by assisting processes or preventing processes.

Parathyroid hormone can cause problems with how the nerves regulate the muscles, immune function, and inflammation which is a major cause of pain in the elderly. Vitamin D also inhibits this hormone, which decreases the problems that can be caused by the parathyroid.

Many people do not realize the heart is a muscle. Vitamin D plays an important role in heart health, and there is increasing research recognizing Vitamin D deficiency and its association to heart disease.

Chronic inflammation can cause many diseases which may include rheumatoid arthritis, kidney and prostate disorders, autoimmune diseases, as well as disorders affecting the skin, pelvis, bowels, respiratory, and vascular systems. Vitamin D deficiency also plays a part in Type I Diabetes.

I wonder how many diseases could be prevented by sufficient Vitamin D? How much pain in our elderly could be helped by adequate Vitamin D?

There is still much to learn and understand when it comes to the human body and disease. I always say, we don’t know what we don’t know. What will the future discoveries tell us? What is the depth of Vitamin D importance in the processes of the human body?

I believe the current information and knowledge about Vitamin D are enough to prove that a deficiency has an effect on wellness. I encourage you to ask your physician, and advocate for your loved one to get tested for Vitamin D deficiency. I don’t recommend beginning a Vitamin D supplement without knowing your lab results or speaking with your physician. It is possible to overdose on Vitamin D, but what if a simple daily supplement of Vitamin D can help you or your loved one’s quality of life? It’s worth pursuing.

Angil Tarach(RN GCM) has over 30 years of experience, and is a nationally known expert in senior care and advocacy. Angil is also the owner of Visiting Angels in Ann Arbor, Michigan.



Original content Angil Tarach, the Alzheimer's Reading Room