Research has shown that vitamin D, also know as “the sunshine vitamin,” is important for several reasons related to staying healthy and maintaining senior independence.

A new study, published in the July 2013 edition of Science Translational Medicine by researchers at Berkeley and the University of Hamburg, found that a lack of vitamin D causes early aging in bones. This can lead to fractures and osteoporosis.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, low levels of vitamin D can lead to other health issues as well. Older adults are at risk of having lower vitamin D levels because their bodies don’t absorb it as easily as younger people’s bodies.

Luckily, there is much that you can do to keep your body’s amount of the sunshine vitamin at stable levels. It’s important to talk to your doctor before you try any new health routines. If your doctor says that you have a vitamin D deficiency, here are some things he or she might recommend:

Spending about 15 minutes a day in the sun is supposed to provide sufficient intake of vitamin D for many people. If you are an older adult, this might not be sufficient because your body does not absorb vitamin D as quickly or easily.

There are a few foods that are natural sources of vitamin D and several that are fortified with the vitamin. Fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and swordfish are all good, natural options for getting more vitamin D. Egg yolks and beef liver are also natural sources. Fortified foods include cereals, orange juice and dairy like milk, cheese and yogurt.

You could also take a supplement that has high levels of vitamin D – the Institute of Medicine recommends up to 4,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day is acceptable. This is, of course, a good thing to discuss with your doctor first.

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