Older adults in central Ohio are at higher risk for a vitamin D deficiency during the winter than their friends in southern climates. That is because most of us spend less time outdoors during the winter. Less exposure to sunlight means the body has less opportunity to produce vitamin D naturally.
More and more studies are proving just how important vitamin D is for overall well-being. It helps with everything from bone health to preventing depression, cardiac diseases, and some forms of cancer.
Foods High in Vitamin D
One of the challenges for getting enough vitamin D during the dreary days of an Ohio winter is that it doesn’t occur naturally in many foods. Most foods high in vitamin D are enriched during production. A few good foods to work into your daily diet include:
- Milk and dairy products
- Fish and oysters
Increasing your intake of foods rich in calcium will help your body better absorb vitamin D. Those can include:
- Almonds and sesame seeds
- Kale, okra and spinach
Remember to check the labels on foods such as cereal and orange juice to see if they have been enriched with vitamin D and calcium. Opt for those brands that have been.
Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D
Understanding how much vitamin D you need can be tricky because the experts don’t always agree on a number. Here are the recommendations from two agencies involved in vitamin D research:
The U.S. Food & Nutrition Board sets their standards as:
- 600 IU/day for children and adults
- 800 IU/day for seniors
The Vitamin D Council advises:
- 1,000 IU/day per 25 pounds for children
- 5,000 IU/day for adults and seniors
Our best advice is to talk with your primary care physician or your senior loved one’s geriatrician for their recommendation.
Diagnosing a Vitamin D Deficiency
The symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency can be quite vague. They typically include fatigue and muscle pain. Your physician can order a blood test to make that diagnosis. There are also tests you can take at home. It might be that you or your senior loved one will require prescription doses of vitamin D for a few months to build back up. Your physician will be the one to make that call.