Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency This Winter

Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency This Winter

As a child, your mother likely told you to drink your milk. It turns out your mom was right! Milk contains calcium and vitamin D which help build strong bones. Because vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods, it is common for people to be deficient.

Besides your diet, there is another way for the body to get vitamin D; exposing bare skin to sunlight. When our skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, the body is able to synthesize vitamin D from cholesterol. It doesn’t take much sunlight for this synthesis to occur. Usually, sun exposure is easy to come by during most months of the year, however, winter offers fewer hours of sunlight. Less sunlight limits the hours the body can synthesize vitamin D. Another struggle is that winter is just plain cold. People bundle up in multiple layers of clothing and rush from the car to their house or destination. As a result, the skin has little contact with the sun.

Health Conditions Related to Vitamin D Deficiency
What happens if you develop a vitamin D deficiency? It depends on how significant the deficit is and what other medical issues you may have. Here are a few common results of vitamin D deficiency:

Early-stage deficiency: Muscle pain, unexplained fatigue and overall weakness are some of the early symptoms. Older adults often don’t report these symptoms because they seem like a normal part of the aging process.

Advanced deficiency: If you are significantly low on vitamin D, you are at higher risk for serious health issues, as well as deep bone pain and fractures. Vitamin D deficiency in this range has been linked to higher incidences of heart disease and vascular conditions, as well as prostate, breast and colon cancers. Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to prevent a vitamin D deficiency this winter.

Ways to Increase Your Vitamin D
Bundle up and go outside: Small doses of sun exposure help you maintain a healthy level of vitamin D. Check with your physician for advice, but a common recommendation is about 40 to 60 minutes of sun a week. Check the weather report to determine what the warmest days will be during the winter months. Even five or 10 minutes of sun each day will help if the temperature isn’t below freezing.

Make good food choices: Consuming foods high in vitamin D might be a little trickier, but there are some options. Salmon, milk, tuna, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms are a few. Another option is to look for foods that are enriched with vitamin D, such as yogurt, cereal and orange juice.

Talk to your doctor about supplements: While most nutrition experts say it’s better to get your essential vitamins and nutrients from a healthy diet, vitamin D is often an exception. If you are concerned you or a senior loved one’s vitamin D level is too low, talk with your physician.