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Vitamin D Deficiency In Senior Citizens


This is not a sexy EMS post. If anything, it’s related to the kind of stuff that people want to do with EMS 2.0.

Study finds high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in seniors

Researcher Stefan Schilling administered vitamin D tests to more than 1,500 seniors in German nursing homes. The results showed that 89 percent had insufficient levels, while 64 percent had severe deficiencies.

This doesn’t surprise me in the least. Many years ago, while working BLS, I noticed that year after year we responded to more patients with hip fractures after falls during the winter months. In fact, during the summer months it was pretty much unheard of. I knew it was seasonal, but I had no idea why or how to determine why. I thought it might be a good idea for a study, but no one was focused on this sort of thing in the 1980s. At least no one that I knew of.

Schiller largely blamed the problem on a failure of seniors to get adequate sun exposure. He pointed out that vitamin D levels tend to fluctuate with the seasons in younger people, with levels dropping in the winter months when there is less sun. However, this was not seen in his participants, suggesting that there is no time of year when they get adequate sun exposure.

Intuitively this makes sense. There is less sunlight during the winter and it’s colder. People tend to stay indoors, especially elderly people. Ironically, they stay in doors because they are often afraid of falling on ice or snow if they go outside.

It would be interesting to see how much Vitamin D levels fluctuate in areas where winters are more mild or even non existent.

Do Vitamin D supplements help as much as real sunlight? Should assisted living centers and SNFs build “sun rooms” where occupants can go even during the winter months to get exposure to sun light?

Not only do people with Vitamin D deficiency run a greater risk of orthopedic injury, but this study says they run a greater risk of Stroke.

Lack of Sunlight, Vitamin D Tied to Stroke Risk

NEW ORLEANS — Too much sunlight is bad for the skin, but not enough may be a risk factor for stroke, according to a study presented here at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference.

Of the more than 16,000 black and white patients followed, those who lived in areas that had shorter exposure to sunlight had a 56% increased risk of stroke, Leslie McClure, PhD, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Ala., and colleagues found.


Reasonable exposure to sunlight would help, the study suggests.

Interestingly, the protective benefit of sunlight was virtually eliminated in the Southeastern stroke belt and buckle, which comprises parts of the coastal plains of Georgia as well as North and South Carolina, McClure told MedPage Today.

Diet. Southern cuisine is many things, but heart and brain healthy generally aren’t on that list. Which brings me to a pet theory. When public health advocates talk about “health care disparities” among minority communities, I wonder if they take diet into account? African-American cuisine is in many respects the same as Southern cuisine. The two groups, southerners and African Americans, have similar health care problems. Hypertension, diabetes, strokes, cardiac disease. Just an observation and pet theory on my part, it’s certainly not science.

It will be interesting to see where this research leads, especially in cold winter area.

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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.


  1. I take a ridiculous amount of Vitamin D. There’s a mess of research suggesting it does everything from cure hiccoughs to make you fly like Superman… most of it not very conclusive, but hey. I do know that I almost never get sick anymore. Placebo or no, I’m a believer.

    • I think that the Vitamin D – bone strength connection is pretty well proven. What also seems to be pretty well proven is that Vitamin D from sunlight is for some reason superior to vitamin D from milk or Vitamins. One thing that might be a bit of a confounder is movement. People who exercise even a little bit seem to be more resilient than those that sit around. Elderly people who are active are healthier in general than those who don’t, although it might be the other way around. People who are sicker can’t move around as much.

      Either way, getting sunlight even in winter months is helpful.

      Back in the early part of the 20th century hospitals had porches so that their patients could get the benefits of fresh air and sunshine. Maybe that’s not such a quaint idea after all.

      • No doubt. The BIDMC has solariums on most floors of the East campus…

        I gather that, although it’s almost impossible to realistically overdose on oral Vit D, it’s entirely impossible to do so via sunshine. So that’s another plus. On the flip side, some authorities (when did health turn into a guru-based industry, anyway?) feel that very few people manage to get “enough” from the sun without running around all day naked in the outback. Hence the supplements, which I do seem to see most elderly patients taking now.

        I dunno. All I know is it’s cheap and seems to work for me.

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