Should You Have Your Vitamin D Level Checked?

vitamin dThe role vitamin D plays in promoting health is an important one. Not only does it play a critical role in regulating calcium levels, it’s also emerging as an important player in the prevention of diseases such as osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, depression, as well as certain types of cancer. Despite the importance of this vitamin, a significant number of people have low serum vitamin D levels when tested. This is particularly true of the elderly and people who live in northern climates where they lack exposure to direct sunlight, the most important source for vitamin D. If you aren’t exposed to sunlight on a daily basis, should you get a vitamin D level test?

Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins that it can be challenging to get even if you eat a healthy diet. Foods which are high in vitamin D are fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines which are foods most people don’t eat on a daily basis. As an alternative, you can buy foods that are fortified with vitamin D such as dairy products which can supply some of the recommended daily intake. A cup of vitamin D fortified milk supplies about a quarter of an adult’s daily vitamin D requirement. If you happen to be intolerant of dairy products and don’t eat fish on a regular basis, there’s a good chance, from a dietary standpoint, you’re not taking in enough vitamin D. This leaves the sun as your only source. Unless you’re getting ten minutes of sunlight on exposed skin each day, you’re not absorbing enough vitamin D to have sufficient serum vitamin D levels for good health.

Although you may be deficient in vitamin D and completely without symptoms, some people with low levels of vitamin D report muscle aches, weakness, and depression. If the vitamin D deficiency is severe, you can develop a condition known as rickets which causes bowing of the legs and arms. Even if you’re completely asymptomatic with a vitamin D deficiency, you may be increasing your risk of certain types of cancer, not to mention osteoporosis.

Obviously this is one vitamin you don’t want to be deficient in. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiencies are surprisingly common with some studies showing over half of older adults with low serum vitamin D levels. Even some people who consciously alter their diet by eating more vitamin D rich foods such as fish are deficient when given a serum vitamin D level test.

Fortunately, your doctor can check a serum vitamin D level in the office by drawing a sample of your blood and sending it to the lab. If you don’t get enough sun exposure or eat a vitamin D rich diet, ask your doctor to perform a serum vitamin D level test, particularly if you suffer from unexplained muscle weakness, excessive fatigue, or depression. Correcting low vitamin D levels can make a difference not only in how you feel but may also lower your long term risk of developing health problems.

Contact a HealthwoRx™ doctor today at 954.967.6550.