Vitamin D is required for just about all aspects of human health. You need it for bone strength, immunity, insulin regulation, heart health, brain function, and more.
And now a new study shows that the sunshine vitamin may be the key to preserving muscle strength as you get older.
The research was conducted at Trinity College Dublin. The investigators looked at 4,157 people over 60. They assessed the subjects’ muscle function and vitamin D levels.
Professor Maria O’Sullivan was a member of the research team. She said their results showed that “vitamin D deficiency increased the likelihood of poor muscle function in older adults.”
Muscle loss and weakness was twice as prevalent in older adults with vitamin D deficiency. Impaired muscle performance was three times higher.
The medical term for this condition is sarcopenia. It’s loss of muscle mass in otherwise healthy people. It strikes about 10% of people over 65. But it accelerates quickly after that. By age 80, about half of seniors have sarcopenia.
Muscle loss in old age can be devastating. It’s associated with falls and serious injuries. Studies show it’s linked with higher risk of death from all causes.
It can make it impossible to live independently and do everyday tasks such as lifting a bag of groceries or getting up from a chair.
Professor O’Sullivan said that maintaining muscle strength is “incredibly important, and often overlooked, in promoting healthy aging.”
Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Vitamin D
Have your doctor check your vitamin D level at your next appointment. It’s a simple blood draw.
If your reading is less than 20 ng/mL, you need more vitamin D (ideal levels are 40-60 ng/mL). Getting 15 minutes of sun a day with your arms and legs exposed will increase your levels.
If it’s not possible for you to increase your sun exposure, take a quality vitamin D3 supplement. We recommend 5,000 IUs a day.
You can also raise your levels by eating foods high in vitamin D3. The best sources are pasture-raised eggs and wild-caught salmon and other oily fish such as sardines, herring, and mackerel.
Getting older doesn’t have to mean becoming frail. Vitamin D and exercise are the keys to staying strong in your 70s, 80s, and beyond.
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