Mandan News

Getting enough vitamin D

Concerning Your Health
By Dr. Terry Wolf

Am I getting enough vitamin D?
As many as half of all adults and children are said to have less than optimum levels of vitamin D. People living in northern latitudes are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D because sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D. People age 65 and older are at highest risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium and is important in the development and maintenance of strong bone structure and good teeth. It is also important for blood clotting and optimal function of the thyroid gland. Some research suggests that adequate vitamin D may help to prevent high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis and some forms of cancer.

Getting enough vitamin D
Your body makes vitamin D when you are exposed to sunlight’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. A general recommendation is to expose your face, arms, back and/or legs (without sunscreen) to 10-15 minutes of sunlight two to three times a week. However, weather conditions and less intense UVB rays make it unlikely that you’ll get sufficient sunlight during a North Dakota winter. Additionally, when you do expose your skin to sunlight you should apply sunscreen after 15 minutes because sunlight exposure also increases the risk of skin cancer.

Vitamin D is also found in foods, including egg yolks, oily fish like tuna and salmon, and fortified foods like milk and breakfast cereals. You can also increase your vitamin D by taking a daily supplement. The recommended dosage for adults in good health is 400 IU (international units) daily.

When to see your doctor
It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about any vitamin supplements you take. Your doctor can determine if you have sufficient levels of vitamin D and may recommend higher doses for a short time to treat an underlying medical problem. Therapeutic doses should always be taken under the care of a doctor.

(Dr. Terry Wolf is a family medicine physician at Sanford East Mandan Clinic. He earned his medical degree at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his residency and internship at Sparrow Hospital Family Practice, all in Lansing, Mich.)