D is a hot topic, both in the news and often in the examination room. So what’s the deal with vitamin D? Vitamin D is not truly a vitamin but a hormone that’s created by cells when skin is exposed to sunlight. It can help lower one’s
risk of heart disease and cancer and promotes healthy bone growth. Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of Americans are not only running low on this important vitamin but might even be deficient.
As the days get shorter and we march ever closer to
another Chicago-area winter, Curtis Mann, MD, Family Medicine, shares four good reasons to check your vitamin D levels and four ways to improve
(Click on the image to listen to Dr. Mann discusss the importance of vitamin D on NorthShore Health & Wellness.)
Why Is It Important?
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. If there
is a deficiency of vitamin D and thus also a deficiency of calcium, the body will take calcium from its bones, weakening them and leaving them vulnerable to fractures. For kids and teens, it’s vital to bone growth and strength. In adults, vitamin D can
help prevent osteomalacia, osteoporosis, bone pain and muscle weakness.
Vitamin D improves energy level and mood. Vitamin D is a key component in brain development. Deficiencies have been linked to low energy and depressive symptoms.
It can also help combat the symptoms of seasonal affect disorder (S.A.D.).
Vitamin D could improve your health now and later. In studies, vitamin D has been shown to boost the immune system, leaving it in better shape to fight
off infections. Studies have also found a positive correlation between sufficient vitamin D levels and lower incidences of cancer—colon, breast, prostate—and heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and potentially
Vitamin D may improve athletic performance. A recent study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal concluded that low levels of vitamin D compromise fitness and energy levels. Athletes
with higher levels of vitamin D were shown to perform at a higher level.
How to Improve Levels:
Have you had your vitamin D levels
Meeting your required daily intake (RDI) of vitamins and minerals is essential to maintaining your current health and staying healthy later in life. However, nearly the entire U.S. population is at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiency. Achieving your
RDI doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, a eating a healthy, varied diet makes getting important vitamins and minerals, like vitamin A, B9, B12, C, D, E, calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium, both simple and delicious.
What should you be eating and why? NorthShore University HealthSystem has created an infographic that breaks down the health benefits of important vitamins and minerals, as well as includes a list of foods high in these vitamins. Click on the image below
to view our
full infographic and then add these superfoods to your grocery list.