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Depression, Heart Disease, Diabetes…Could it be Low Vitamin D?

One study found that older adults with low blood levels of vitamin D and high blood levels of a hormone secreted by the parathyroid glands may have a higher risk of depression.

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It can be difficult to determine what’s triggering the depression you’ve been noticing in your mother. It could be the loss of a loved one, a health issue, or even the shorter days of fall and winter.

Your first stop for an older adult who is noticing any change in mood or symptoms should be the doctor’s office. A thorough examination and discussion with the doctor should help determine the cause of depression and the best treatment plan, whether it’s medication or counseling.

One factor that has been found to lead to depression in older adults could be low levels or a deficiency in Vitamin D. This fat-soluble vitamin is naturally present in some foods and is also produced when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. Fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are good sources of vitamin D, and it is also available as a dietary supplement.

Symptoms of depression in about 13 percent of older individuals have been linked to vitamin D deficiency, according to an issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Vitamin D levels in blood were 14 percent lower in individuals with major and minor depression compared with non-depressed participants, according to the study.

The Risks of Low Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D deficiency could even turn deadly, according to research. In June 2008, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that low blood levels of vitamin D were associated with a doubled risk of death overall and from cardiovascular causes in women and men (average age 62) referred to a cardiac center for coronary angiography causes.

Vitamin D appears to have some preventative benefits as well. An interesting study from the University of Warwick Medical School found that middle-aged and older adults with high levels of vitamin D could reduce their chances of developing heart disease or diabetes by a whopping 43 percent.

Researchers looked at 28 studies including 99,745 men and women across a variety of ethnic groups. These studies revealed a significant association between high levels of vitamin D and a decreased risk of developing three disorders:

  • Cardiovascular Disease (33 percent compared to low levels of vitamin D)
  • Type 3 diabetes (55 percent reduction)
  • Metabolic Syndrome (51 percent) 

Support for Seniors to Increase Vitamin D Levels and Overall Health

Luckily, there are easy, non-pharmaceutical ways to increase Vitamin D level, such as spending more time in the sunlight. Eating fatty fish and seafood, which are among the richest natural food sources of vitamin D, as well as fortified foods, like yogurts and cereals, and taking a vitamin supplement also could help.

Support at home could help aging adults focus more on their health and well-being. To learn how a Home Instead CAREGiverSM could help your senior loved one, locate a Home Instead® office near you.

Last revised: February 10, 2020

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. July 14, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Posted by Johnson Maxey

    Please provide recommended [minimum; maximum] vit. D intake.


  2. January 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Posted by Ann Ford

    25 yrs ago I was diagnosed with pernicous anemia and initally was hospitalized receiving 6 units of blood. Then was started on a B12 injections treatment. Every day then every other then once a week then eventually once a month for 13 yrs. Then my Dr stopped seeing pts and I transferred to another interanal Dr in the same group. He decided I did not need the B12. I Had Breast cancer and went thru surgery, Chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Now 12 yrs later I am having the symptoms that lead to my inital blood transfusions and beginning b12 therapy. And also another new Dr. The second Dr. quit his practice also. I trusted him and took his word that I did not have true pernicious anemia. But now I am going thru testing and am very tired, depressed, numb in hands and lower legs. If you have symptoms of B12 defiecency insist on the tests being run. I have slowly become very low functioning , retiring early from my job due to inability to cope with my faced paced postion; Also have had several emotional traumas several people have passed away culminating with most recently the death of my 23 yr old grandson, Trying to come back but am having the biggest fight of my life;; even harder that the Breast Cancer fight. Dont take this disease lightly.


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