Last week we looked at some studies demonstrating the importance of vitamin D in protecting your heart. If you missed that article, you can find it here.
Today I want to focus a little more on vitamin D deficiency, and how you can find out if you are lacking.
According to Dr Michos, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, 41% of men and 53% percent of women are deficient in vitamin D.
You are at an increased risk of being deficient if you have darker skin, if you live in a northernly climate, if you are elderly, if you are immobilized or institutionalised, if you are obese, if you avoid the sun, cover your skin in the sun, or always wear sunscreen, and if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
So, how will you know if you are deficient in vitamin D?
The only way you can know for sure if you are deficient in vitamin D is to have a blood test taken. This is a specific blood test, which looks at your 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25(OH)D). Your doctor will be able to take this test for you. Just make sure they are testing for 25(OH)D specifically.
For optimal health, your aim should be to reach a vitamin D (25(OH)D) blood level of 50–80 ng/ml (125–200 nmol/L).
If you find you are deficient in vitamin D, there are steps you can take to correct your levels. We will take more about that in my following article.
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all treatment for low vitamin D levels. In fact, the only way you can be sure how much vitamin D you need to correct your levels, is to have the blood test taken, which I have mentioned above. Then, you will need to periodically have this test to make sure you are maintaining a healthy level.
This may not sound like something you want to do, but I would re-echo Dr Davis' words here on Health Central, when he said,
"I would rank normalizing vitamin D as among the most important things you can do for your health. It should never be too much bother. And, if your doctor refuses to at least discuss why he/she won't measure it, then it's time for a new doctor. If you're worried about adding to rising healthcare costs by adding yet another blood test, think of all the money that could be saved by sparing you from a future of cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc. The cost of a vitamin D blood test is relatively trivial."
Grassroots, an international consortium of vitamin D experts, do give these guidelines for a healthy vitamin D status:
- Vitamin D (25(OH)D) blood levels below 80 nmol/L are not adequate for any body system.
- Levels as high as 125 nmol/L may be closer to optimal.
- They suggest an average of 5,000 IU per day for adults is needed to maintain optimal levels of vitamin D in the blood (more on that next week).
Have Your Vitamin D Levels Tested
If you would like to have your vitamin D levels measured, you can join the Grassroots D-action Program. This is an international project, with the aim of solving the vitamin D deficiency epidemic.
They are sponsoring the use of blood spot test kits (laboratory analysis done by ZRT Labs) for a $60.00 fee to each individual. You will also be asked to submit some basic health data along with the blood sample. This is an excellent program, and offers an alternative to those of us who cannot get this test taken by our own doctor. You can find out more here.
Melanie Thomassian, registered dietitian, online health coach, and author of Dietriffic.com, cuts through the misconceptions about diet and fitness to help you transform your health for life. Visit her website to learn more, or check out her new healthy eating guide.
Published On: June 02, 2011