Q. Who is at risk of Vitamin D deficiency?
A. If you avoid the sun, live with milk allergies or adhere to a strict vegan diet, you may be at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for good bone health and muscle strength, and it helps your body properly absorb calcium from food.
Also known as “the sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D is mostly produced by the body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. You cannot get the Vitamin D your body needs from food alone. Because it is found only in a few foods, such as fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks and liver, foods including milk, cereals and juices are fortified with Vitamin D.
For decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has put out reports on the declining number of adults achieving Vitamin D sufficiency. So it is important to be mindful of Vitamin D, as low levels can negatively affect your health.
Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to bone loss, so if you have low bone density, you should be evaluated for Vitamin D deficiency to reduce the risk of skeletal fractures.
If you are Vitamin D deficient, you may not show symptoms. However, your doctor may see a disturbance in your calcium and phosphorous levels in your blood. A blood test measuring the amount of Vitamin D in your blood is the only way to know if you are getting enough Vitamin D. If the amount of Vitamin D in your blood is low, you may need to take supplements or get more sun exposure.
You do not need to tan or burn your skin to get the right amount of Vitamin D per day. You only need to expose your skin to the sunlight, without sunscreen, for a few minutes a day.
- Ashley Miller, D.O., primary-care physician at Nazareth Hospital