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What to Know About Vitamin D Dosage for Older Adults

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 16, 2021

Vitamin D is closely related to building and maintaining healthy bones. It also helps with anti-inflammation, immune support, muscle function, generating brain cells, and giving your body antioxidants. Older people need to have enough vitamin D in their diet to maintain their bone health and prevent damage to their bones or muscles when they fall.

Not naturally found in many foods, the most common way your body produces vitamin D is by converting direct sunlight into an active form of the nutrient. People over the age of 65 have been shown to produce less vitamin D. It is speculated that this may occur either because people over 65 go outside less or because it is harder to convert sunlight into vitamin D as you age. 

Due to the increased need for vitamin D and the decrease of natural production of it, many people over 65 need to take vitamin D supplements or focus on eating foods that contain vitamin D in them.

How to Get Enough Vitamin D As an Older Adult

Adults aged up to 70 years old should be getting at least 600 IU. Adults older than 70 should be getting at least 800 IU of vitamin D. However, some sources say you should consume up to 1000 IU of vitamin D past the age of 70. If you are older than 65, you should get a blood test and speak with your doctor to tailor a treatment plan to your body.

As stated previously, our body’s ability to naturally convert sunlight to vitamin D decreases with age. It also is recommended that seniors try and stay out of direct sunlight and wear sunscreen to protect against sun damage to the skin.

This means that you should either eat foods rich in vitamin D or take supplements to help you get the amount you need. Some of the best foods to eat if you have a vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Swordfish
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Trout
  • Sardines
  • Milk (fortified)
  • Yogurt (fortified)
  • Cereals (fortified)
  • Soy, almond, and oat milk
  • Cow's Milk
  • Mushrooms
  • Egg
  • Beef liver

The types of milk, yogurt, and cereals that are good to consume for vitamin D are fortified with it. These products will say this on their labels if they have been fortified.

Additionally, you can purchase supplements or vitamins that contain large amounts of vitamin D. Often, the pill forms of vitamin D are large and can be difficult to swallow. To avoid this, consider purchasing the chewable versions of these products.

Safety Concerns

Older adults can take an average of 4000 IU a day safely. This is a high number and is the highest that is recommended for older adults to take regularly. Taking it at this high of a dosage will ensure a lower risk of breaks or fractures from falls.

Additionally, it has been found that there are vitamin D receptors in the nervous, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems. There are even some preliminary findings that link vitamin D deficiency with the following signs of aging:

  • Cognitive decline
  • Depression
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Cancer

While the benefits of having the recommended amount of vitamin D are well known, the effects of vitamin D deficiency in older people are also well known. Vitamin D deficiency can cause bone diseases like osteoporosis, osteomalacia, and other conditions that make the bones weak, brittle, and easy to fracture. Therefore, consuming adequate amounts of vitamin D can ensure that your body can better take care of itself should you fall or undergo some sort of trauma.

As an older person, supplementing vitamin D will help your bones to stay healthy and strong and perhaps prevent other signs of aging. You should get a blood test to see what your vitamin D levels are. If they are very low, talk to your doctor about how to effectively incorporate more vitamin D into your life.

Show Sources

SOURCES: 

HealthinAging: “Ask The Expert: Getting Enough Vitamin D In Later Life."

Journal of Aging & Gerontology: “The Role of Vitamin D in the Aging Adult.”

Mayo Clinic: “Vitamin D.”

National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin D.”

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