Lower vitamin D levels have been linked to poor fitness and greater frailty in elderly people with heart failure, according to findings published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.
In this new study, 60 elderly adults with heart failure walked as far as they could in six minutes. Researchers compared the distance they walked to their blood levels of vitamin D, testosterone and levels of inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein and interleukin-6). Various measures of frailty were also scored and compared to levels of vitamin D.
Elderly people who walked the shortest distance in six minutes had the lowest levels of vitamin D. Frailty was also linked to vitamin D, with the most frail elderly having the lowest levels of vitamin D.
Given these findings, the authors say elderly people may need more vitamin D to improve their physical stamina. It's not known if vitamin D would be effective in treating heart failure, however future research will investigate the relationship between vitamin D and markers of heart disease and inflammation.
The need for vitamin D increases after age 50, with Health Canada recommending 400 IU of vitamin D per day for this age group. Elderly people are at risk for vitamin D deficiency because they may lack exposure to sunlight - or they may have inadequate intake of vitamin D-rich foods.
Vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin", is found in fatty fish such as salmon, fortified margarine, fortified orange juice and milk. A 3.5-ounce serving of salmon provides 360 IU of vitamin. Most supplements provide 200 to 400IU of vitamin D.
The safe upper limit for vitamin D is set at 2000 IU. Please consult a registered dietitian before starting a single vitamin supplementation regime.
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