December 23, 2015
The short, dark days of fall and winter mean the sun’s rays, the main source of vitamin D, are not as powerful as they are the rest of the year. Fewer daylight hours and more time spent indoors mean you have less opportunity to soak in any rays.
So, until daylight saving time returns, consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D helps protect you from brittle bones, heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers, and immune deficiencies. It also helps memory.
How Much do You Need?
Even in the summer, most people don’t get the dose of vitamin D they need, particularly in the northern United States. According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D ranges from 600 IU daily for ages 1 to 70 to 800 IU for ages 71 and older.
Who is at Risk?
You are at risk for vitamin D deficiency if you:
- Have dark skin
- Are obese
- Live in an institution
- Limit your sun exposure by wearing protective clothing or consistently using sun screen
- Are being evaluated for osteoporosis
- Are pregnant
- Have a malabsorption problem
What You Can Do
Here are some things you can do to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D:
Food. Canned salmon, canned tuna, D-enriched orange juice, and nonfat milk are good sources. Also check for other foods, such as breakfast cereals, that are fortified with vitamin D.
Supplement. Take a daily supplement. Take it with a meal to help boost absorption.
Get a blood test. The only way to check your vitamin D levels is through a blood test. Talk to your doctor to see if this might be right for you.
Watch for symptoms. Over the winter months, chronic backache, depression, high blood pressure, and weight gain could be signs of vitamin D deficiency.