What are the health benefits of taking vitamin D as I age?

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Lack of vitamin D affects bone metabolism, leading to osteoporosis, muscle weakness and increased risk of fracture. Conversely, proper amounts of vitamin D may decrease the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and infection.

Vitamin D deficiency is very common in older adults. One problem is that older people often don’t eat the same foods as when they were younger. Fortified milk, margarine, cereal and eggs, which are great sources of vitamin D for young people, are often missing from older peoples’ diets.

The best natural dietary sources of vitamin D come from fresh salmon (preferably wild caught) but canned fish, including salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines, are also rich in vitamin D. Dried shiitake mushrooms are another great source but are usually not staples of most diets.
As you age, vitamin D may give you a leg up when it comes to keeping your balance, your grip strength and your foot speed.

A lack of vitamin D is actually fairly common in the United States; up to 40% of people may not be getting enough. And shortfalls increase with age. This is not good, because a study recently revealed that people 65 and older who are low on vitamin D do poorly on tests of handgrip strength, walking speed, balance and the ability to stand up from a seated position. More research is needed, but scientists feel there is already enough evidence of vitamin D's positive effect on muscle strength to warrant being on D alert.

You can get vitamin D from the sun and from food (including fortified foods), but most people need a supplement to get enough, especially as winter sun rays get weaker. Check with your doctor if you're wondering whether a vitamin D supplement is a good move for you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.