At my last wellness appointment, my primary care doctor spent time discussing what I should be doing to maintain good health as I grow older. I’m of a certain age, so I need to be focused on a number of things.
She looked at my fair skin and said, “You don’t look like you’re a sun worshipper.” I took that as a compliment. After all, I’ve been extremely careful about too much sun exposure by keeping my skin covered with clothing and sunscreen when I’m out and about on a sunny day.
That’s important because, as mentioned in my last blog, too much sun can lead to signs of aging skin and, more importantly, can lead to skin cancer.
But here’s an interesting thing. Some sun exposure isn’t all bad, and my efforts to ensure I keep my skin protected from the sun may mean I am missing an important benefit from it.
That leads back to my doctor’s comment. Eyeing my fair skin, and being aware of my advancing age, she wanted to make sure I was getting enough Vitamin D. Why is that important? According John W. Martin III, MD, medical director of The Women’s Center at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, Vitamin D is essential to keep bones strong, help prevent fractures and maintain muscle activity. “Some studies,” Dr. Martin added, “suggest additional benefits, particularly among older adults, including enhanced central nervous system function (maintaining balance) and muscle contraction speed (preventing falls).” Some studies also indicate that not enough Vitamin D could contribute to diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension and immune disorders, he explained.
How do we get Vitamin D?
Sunshine. According to the National Institutes of Health, most people can get enough Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. Factors such as time of year, time of day, cloud cover and use of sunscreen could alter effectiveness. In addition, as we age, our bodies may be less able to convert sunlight efficiently into Vitamin D.
Foods. According to the NIH, there are few foods in nature that contain Vitamin D. Best food sources are flesh of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, as well as fish liver oils. Small amounts of it can also be found in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Most of it in food, however, will be found in fortified foods such as milk, some breakfast cereals, orange juice and other products.
Dietary Supplements. When considering use of any supplement, individuals should first consult their doctor.
It’s essential for people of all ages to get an adequate amount of Vitamin D regularly. Still, there can be too much of a good thing. According to this article in the Banner Health library, too much Vitamin D in our system can be toxic and can result in serious complications. Sources may vary on what amount of Vitamin D is right for certain groups of people. That’s why it’s important to have your own discussion about Vitamin D with your doctor, just as I did with my physician at my last wellness appointment.
As Dr. Martin explained in his column, “There is much contradiction and room for legitimate disagreement about Vitamin D. Discuss your questions and concerns with your physician. Everyone’s needs vary.”