Are You Getting Your Daily D?

General Steward Health Care

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Often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is an essential nutrient that can make a big difference in the health of your heart, bones, skin, hair, immunity and even your mood. And as the daylight hours start to wane heading into winter, it is more important to consider these answers to questions about vitamin D’s effect on your health.

sunshineWhat is vitamin D and why is it important?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in food and made by your body after sun exposure. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, keeps your bones and muscles strong and may boost your immune system and prevent certain cancers.

Who needs to worry about getting enough vitamin D?

You may not get enough vitamin D if you: get limited sun exposure; don’t consume enough vitamin D-rich foods; are African-American or have dark skin; or are over age 50.

How much vitamin D do I need?

The Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends 600 IU a day for anyone ages 1 to 69 and 800 IU for adults 70 and older. You also need to be aware that taking too much vitamin D, more than 2,000 IU) may not be beneficial and could lead to digestive disturbances, confusion, abnormal heart rhythms, and impaired kidney function.

Where can I get vitamin D?

A glass of fortified milk gives you 98 IU of vitamin D. Other good food sources are fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel and fortified cereals, margarine, and orange juice. A tablespoon of cod liver oil provides a whopping 1,360 IU of vitamin D. Your body can form active vitamin D from 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight twice a week to the hands, arms, face or back without sunscreen – but don’t stay out any longer without applying protection.

How do I know whether I’m deficient?

Bone pain and muscle weakness may indicate a deficiency, but symptoms can be too subtle to tell. If you’re concerned, ask your health care provider about getting a blood test to measure vitamin D levels and find out whether you need a supplement.

Need help finding a doctor? Visit Steward DoctorFinder™ or call 800-488-5959.

*Source: Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/

To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.