Could this vitamin keep you out of a nursing home?

It happens to everyone, right?

As the number of candles on your birthday cake grows, you start to move a little slower. As the years pass you begin to have a bit more trouble getting around. And those routine tasks like cooking, cleaning, and yard work, well, let's just say they don't seem all that "routine" anymore.

They say there's nothing that you can do about it. They say it's just a part of getting older that you need to learn to live with.

But are they right? Is it really?

It turns out maybe not.

If you're having trouble getting up out of your favorite chair... or if a walk to the mailbox and back leaves you puffing and exhausted... you shouldn't just write it off to aging. If the everyday tasks that you used to tackle without hesitation suddenly become too hard, DON'T just give up and resign yourself to "getting old."

It turns out you could just be running low on one critical vitamin, according to a hard-hitting six-year long study out of the Netherlands that followed 1,300 people aged 55 to 88.

You're NOT old, you're D deficient

Study participants had their vitamin D levels checked and were questioned about their abilities to do a variety of routine tasks like sitting down or getting up from a chair, dressing and taking a five minute stroll without resting.

In the 65 to 88 group, participants with the lowest D levels were 1.7 times as likely to have at least one physical limitation when compared to those seniors with the highest levels. In fact, a staggering 70 percent of those with the lowest D levels in the older group had at least one mobility issue.

But if you're a youngster in the 55 to 65 age range don't make the mistake of thinking you dodged a bullet. Your outlook may, in fact, be worse. Those with the lowest D levels in the 55 to 65 group were twice as likely to have at least one limitation.

And the news doesn't get any better as you get older.

If you're a senior who is D deficient your physical functioning is likely to get worse over time. Older study participants who were found to be low in D rapidly declined, developing additional problems within three years. And participants who were in the younger group saw the same sort of declines over a six year period.

Say "No!" to the nursing home
Now I'm sure it comes as no surprise to you that seniors tend to be vitamin D deficient... you read the Guide to Good Health after all. In fact, we're in the midst of a silent epidemic with D levels declining across all age groups, and hitting seniors particularly hard. Some estimates say that up to 90 percent of older folks are walking around... or perhaps I should say limping around... with dangerously-low D levels.

I've stressed the importance of raising your D levels for years now, regardless of your age. The vitamin is a critical part of staying healthy and it plays a role in countless body functions including muscle and bone health. And this new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, really drives home just how devastating low D levels can be.

Your vitamin D level could determine whether you continue to live a life of independence or live out your days confined to a nursing home... or worse.

We already know that vitamin D can help prevent falls. One review of 9 clinical trials found that vitamin D supplements reduced the risk for falling by about 17 percent.

And another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year, found that high-dose vitamin D reduces the risk of hip fractures in seniors by an incredible 30 percent, and other breaks by a still-significant 14 percent.

(For more details on the critical role D plays in your health check my archives here.)

You can naturally increase your D level by spending more time out in the sun with your arms and legs exposed. Supplements are also a great option and might be needed to help you overcome a critical D deficiency. I typically recommend taking between 2,000 to 4,000 IU's of vitamin D3 daily. Talk with your doctor about what's best for your specific situation.

And don't forget to take your D with a healthy fat, such as olive or fish oil to help your body absorb the vitamin better.