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Senior Health—Combating Seasonal Depression with Vitamin D

Throughout winter, nights are longer and select parts of the country may not experience much sunlight at all. Gray skies and cold weather keep people indoors, especially seniors.

It is believed that 4–6% of people in the United States suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Another 10–20% may suffer from a mild form of it. The Mayo Clinic cites a range of symptoms that can start mild and may become more severe as the season progresses. Some of the symptoms are as follows:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Weight gain

Please note: Not everyone will have all of the symptoms and the severity of each may vary.

 

There is research to suggest that a lack of Vitamin D could be the problem. An article from Suite101 reports that, “One of the main culprits for the inception of SAD could be a decrease in vitamin D (particularly vitamin D3). Sun exposure is integral in the production of vitamin D as well as the release of endorphins, which are known as ‘feel-good hormones,’ that generate a sense of well-being.”

Beyond a vitamin supplement, vitamin D is found in fish, eggs, fortified milk and cod liver oil. Studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes per day of sunlight exposure is enough to prevent deficiencies. As the ultraviolet light comes into contact with our skin, it creates vitamin D3 which is also known as Cholecalciferol.

Please remember the idiom, “too much of a good thing.” While limited exposure to sunlight can aid in the natural production of Vitamin D, too much exposure can be harmful. Though most commonly considered during summer, it is equally important to practice sun safety during the winter months. When outside, cover up with clothing, a shade-casting hat and/or sunglasses to protect your skin from the sun. And don’t forget to apply sunscreen liberally to any exposed skin.

It can be tough to make the effort to go outdoors during the winter, but fresh air and sunlight might give you the boost you need to get through to Spring!

This blog post is informational only and any questions or concerns should be addressed to your doctor or health care provider.