Join us for Still Rockin’: A Night of Music to Support Programming and Resources for Older Adults

Join us for Still Rockin’: A Night of Music to Support Programming and Resources for Older Adults

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which is created by sun exposure. If you wear sunscreen constantly, are homebound, wear a hijab or long robes for religious reasons, or live in northern latitudes such as Illinois, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Besides being created in our bodies from the sun, vitamin D also occurs naturally in a few foods such as fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and some cheeses. Therefore, if you are a vegetarian or suffer from milk allergies, you also might be at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

So what’s the big deal? Well, vitamin D helps the body use calcium from the diet; therefore, it’s essential for strong bones. A deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease causing skeletal deformities. However, new research has found vitamin D also protects against a host of other health problems.

Are You at Risk?

Symptoms of a deficiency could mean bone pain and muscle weakness, but for many the symptoms may be so subtle you don’t really notice until it’s severe. A deficiency could lead to an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children and even cancer.

You could also be at risk if you have dark skin. This is due to the pigment melanin in dark skin that reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sun exposure. Certain medical problems such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and celiac disease can affect the intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from food or supplements placing you at risk. Obesity is another risk factor because vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, changing its release into the circulation. In addition, as we age our kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, sometimes creating a deficiency.

Research has also indicated that vitamin D could help prevent and treat different conditions, including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis. A simple blood test from your doctor specifically measuring the levels of vitamin D in your blood, called the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, could indicate if you are deficient or not.


Treatment is relatively easy. It involves getting more vitamin D — plain and simple. This can be done through diet (eating more fish), taking a supplement or exposing your arms or legs to just 15 minutes a day to the sunlight (with no sunscreen).

The Institute of Medicine now recommends a daily amount of 600 international units (IU) for those 1-70 years old and 800 IU for those 70+ to optimize bone health. Talk to your doctor about testing and treatment if you think you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living

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