Find a Community

How to Avoid a Vitamin D Deficiency During the Winter

How to Avoid a Vitamin D Deficiency During the Winter

Five Star Senior Living communities emphasize a happy, healthy lifestyle that focuses on meaningful social enrichment—and plenty of delicious meals with the right nutrients for older adults, including vitamin D. 

Because vitamin D deficiency is serious business.

How can you get Vitamin D in Winter?

Most of us have heard that drinking milk helps to build strong bones. That’s because milk contains calcium and vitamin D, which work together to promote bone health. You already know that calcium is a bone-builder. The vitamin D is added to milk because it helps your body absorb the calcium. That’s why some dairy and grain products are fortified with vitamin D, which only occurs naturally in a few foods, including some fish and egg yolks.

Another way to get enough vitamin D naturally is by exposing bare skin to sunlight. When skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, it synthesizes vitamin D from cholesterol. It doesn’t take very much sun for that synthesis to occur. If a person is homebound, however—whether due to mobility issues, social isolation or other factors—sun exposure can be limited, and risk of vitamin D deficiency increased. (Even outdoor types who get plenty of sun exposure are at risk if they wear sunscreen, which inhibits vitamin D production.) 

How Serious Is a Vitamin D Deficiency in Winter?

Vitamin D deficiency is more serious than it sounds. Recent research shows that it can negatively affect our health as we age. Depending on the seriousness of the deficiency, lack of vitamin D can lead to a variety of health problems:

  • Early-stage deficiency: Among the early signs of vitamin D deficiency are muscle pain, problems walking, unexplained fatigue and overall weakness.
  • Advanced deficiency: This can result in deep bone pain and fractures. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to higher rates of heart and vascular disease, as well as prostate, breast and colon cancer.

Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to cognitive impairment. On the plus side, there’s evidence that getting enough D can help not only prevent but treat some chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

How to Get Enough Vitamin D—and Protect Yourself

There are three ways to get vitamin D and help prevent a vitamin deficiency:

  • Sun exposure: As noted earlier, getting a limited amount of sun exposure may help your body get enough D. Check with your physician to see how much sunlight is safe. A common recommendation is about 20 minutes of sun several times a week—not a problem in Five Star communities, where our Lifestyle 360 programming offers outdoor games, social events, walking clubs and other activities to give residents lots of reasons to get outside and enjoy nature.
  • Vitamin D supplements: Nutritionists will tell you that it’s best to get your essential vitamins and nutrients from healthy food choices. But if that’s not possible for you in the case of vitamin D and you are at all concerned, talk with your physician and ask for a simple blood test to check. If you are deficient, your doctor will either order a prescription dose of vitamin D or recommend an over-the-counter supplement.
  • Smart food choices: While foods containing vitamin D aren’t plentiful, there are some options you can try. Consuming vitamin D rich foods like canned salmon, milk, tuna and mushrooms will help. Vitamin D enriched foods such as soy, yogurt, cereal, orange juice and eggs are easy to work into your diet as well.

You will find vitamin D-rich foods and more on Five Star dining menus. In fact, we recently introduced new menu items featuring health-boosting ingredients. Check out this great new grilled salmon recipe as well as these Five Star recipes to get a taste (and try making them for you and your loved ones)!

Subscribe to the Five Star Blog

Don't miss out on the latest tips, research and stories from Five Star to help you and your
family navigate aging well.