Nutritionist Mabel Blades explains why getting enough of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is so vital for those living with dementia.

All too often the overall health of people with dementia is not considered as the main focus is on managing the issues of dementia rather than taking a more holistic approach.

And while helping people to remain well and prevent falls is helpful for anyone, due to issues of becoming confused or disorientated, people with dementia are more prone to falls. Talking to my physiotherapist friend he confirmed that sadly any resultant fractures can be more difficult to manage and rehabilitation is often poor in those with dementia.

Figures show people with dementia are twice as likely to suffer from a hip fracture after a fall which is not just painful and debilitating but hospitalisations can be enormously confusing and debilitating.

It’s why simple steps to boost vitamin D levels and strengthen bones, such as changing the diet slightly or taking a supplement, can be an important preventative measure.

From late March to September sunlight on the skin enables the production of vitamin D in the body, which is needed for the absorption of calcium from foods. This helps to keep the bones strong and thus prevents falls. Vitamin D also can prevent bone pain and discomfort associated with conditions like osteomalacia.

A lack of vitamin D is increasingly being recognised as being involved in other conditions like Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancers plus asthma.

Low mood and fatigue as well as depression have also be linked with a lack of vitamin D – just think how people feel more cheerful on a lovely sunny day! For people with dementia low mood and fatigue can be an underlying aspect of the condition and any deterioration due to a lack of vitamin D can be very debilitating and frightening.

Sources of vitamin D are oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel (easy to keep in tins), eggs (another good standby), red meat and liver (which also provides protein, zinc and iron) and fortified foods like margarine spreads.

Due to the limited number of foods containing vitamin D the Department of Health recommends that people should take a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D throughout the year if they are not often outdoors or wear clothes that cover up most of their skin. Therefore a supplement may be helpful during the winter months and vitamin D supplements are usually inexpensive and easily taken.

So please think about vitamin D for anyone, but especially those with dementia.

Dr Mabel Blades is an independent Freelance Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist. mabelonamission.blogspot.co.uk