To put it simply, ‘mobility issues’ refers to one’s inability to move around freely. A person who experiences mobility problems might find it difficult (or even impossible) to walk around or may have trouble getting out of a chair and into a standing position. One of the biggest dangers of impaired mobility is the risk of falling down. Falls often result in serious wounds, broken bones or fractures.
The Connection Between Vitamin D and Muscle Health
Vitamin D is responsible for promoting bone and muscle health. It is typically stored in the liver from where it gets metabolized. What happens is that when there is a deficiency in vitamin D levels, the body’s ability to absorb calcium reduces significantly. Low levels of calcium can also lead to increased muscular pain and weakness.
Prolonged vitamin D deficiency can lead to severe limitations in mobility especially in the elderly. Vitamin D is responsible for streamlining electrical impulses along nervous passageways. Inadequate vitamin D levels can cause these electrical impulses to get relayed to the wrong muscles causing involuntary contraction and relaxation.
Deficiencies in vitamin D (and consequently calcium) can cause muscular tingling or twitching; a condition referred to as ‘ostomalacia’. Muscular twitching can transform trivial daily functions like buttoning up your shirt into a challenging task.
Research Study Indicates the Relationship between Vitamin D Deficiency and Mobility Issues
A detailed study spanning a period of six years was published in the ‘Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences’. The results have indicated a strong relationship between vitamin D deficiency and mobility problems that typically develop in the elderly. The study was conducted across a sample of more than 3 000 individuals including men and women of different ethnic groups.
Dr Denise Houston, Nutrition Epidemiologist at Wake Forest Hospital and head of the study, said that about one-third of America’s population experienced low vitamin D levels. She also added that sunshine and health supplements were good sources of vitamin D.
The research results indicated that there was a 30% increase in risk for those who suffered from vitamin D deficiency. The group at elevated risk faced a two-fold chance of developing mobility issues.
Dr Houston also recommended that individuals in the elderly age-group ensure that they receive at least 800 International Units of vitamin D on a daily basis through a healthy dose of sunshine, diet or alternatively through dietary supplements.
The VU Medical Center conducted yet another landmark research study into the benefits of vitamin D for the elderly. The results, which were published in the ‘Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism’, established that there was a relationship between vitamin D levels and physical performance.
The lead author, Evelien Sohl, said that their study was conducted on more than 1 200 participants between the ages of 65 to 88. She also explained that muscle cells were equipped with special receptors that assimilated vitamin D.
Why Are Older People At Increased Risk Of Vitamin D Deficiency?
The process of aging is typically accompanied by a loss in muscle bone mass. To prevent falls and mobility impairment, it’s necessary to ensure that muscle and bone mass is maintained as best as possible.
There are several reasons for vitamin D deficiency in older people. The factors include but are not restricted to a thinning skin layer, reduced diet intake and diminished intestinal absorption. Elderly individuals particularly experience vitamin D deficiency in the form of fatigue and difficulty in rising or sitting down. There is also a general feeling of heaviness in the legs which contributes to mobility issues.
Vitamin D deficiency targets the lower limb muscles directly. These are called the antigravity muscles and they are responsible for bearing the weight of the body. When these muscles are targeted...balance, mobility and posture are affected as a consequence.
How To Get More Vitamin D
Sunshine is a great source of vitamin D. In order for your body to produce vitamin D from sunlight, you need to get plenty of adequate sunlight (preferably in the middle of the day) during the warm summer months. However, common sense should prevail and keep in mind that prolonged excess exposure to sunlight can cause the skin to turn pink leading to uncomfortable sunburn.
It’s also important to remember that merely increasing your calcium intake will not be enough to maintain healthy bones...you need adequate amounts of vitamin D to ensure optimum calcium absorption.
You should always try to get your vitamin D from the sun in preference to high dose vitamin D supplements. The form of vitamin D that is produced in your body as a result of exposure to sunlight is called D3 or cholecalciferol and is the best (most natural) form of vitamin D your body can get.
It doesn't matter if someone lives in a cold, dark region during the winter months, so long as they've received plenty of sunshine during summer. If the body gets sufficient exposure to sunlight during the summer months, it will store the precursor to vitamin D and release it as required at other times. However, an ongoing maintenance dose from a quality supplement would be advisable.