• Staff at Crestwood location

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D? Ingalls Offers Simple Test to Find Out

Chances are, if you live in the northern part of the United States, you don’t get enough vitamin D. That includes the Chicago area.

In fact, if you routinely shun the sun, avoid milk or dairy and adhere to a strict vegan diet, you may be at risk for a potentially serious condition called vitamin D deficiency.

Others at risk include African-Americans and other darkskinned people; older people; overweight individuals; and people who work indoors. That’s a lot of people! In fact, researchers estimate that worldwide, vitamin D deficiency affects nearly a billion people and can be found in all ethnicities and age groups.

“Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health,” explains Kaveh Rahmani, D.O., family practice doctor on staff at the Ingalls Care Center in Crestwood.

Also known as the “sunshine vitamin” because the body converts sunlight into vitamin D when the sun hits unprotected skin. Vitamin D also helps bring calcium and phosphorus to the bones and teeth; regulates how much calcium remains in the blood; helps strengthen the immune system; and aids in regulating cell growth.

“People who don’t get enough vitamin D may have greater loss of bone mass, which can lead to osteoporosis,” he added. “Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to softening of the bones.”

Other risks include an increased chance for developing chronic diseases like heart disease, some cancers and multiple sclerosis.

The recommended dietary allowance for adults is 600 IU of vitamin D a day. That goes up to 800 IU a day for those older than age 70.

Since vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, it is added to many and is also available as a dietary supplement. Some oily fish, such as tuna and salmon, naturally contain vitamin D. Most milk and many types of orange juice, yogurt, cheese, cereal, bread and soy drinks are fortified with vitamin D. Check the Nutrition Facts panel for vitamin D.

Vitamin D Testing

Although bone pain and muscle weakness may be signs of a vitamin D deficiency, for most individuals, the symptoms are extremely subtle. The only way to know if you’re deficient is to have a vitamin D test.

“The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test,” adds Crestwood family practice specialist Kavitha Bathala, M.D.

A level of 30-100 nanograms/milliliter is considered adequate for healthy people, and an optimal level is about 70 ng/mL. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates vitamin D deficiency. Treatment for vitamin D deficiency involves getting more vitamin D through diet and supplements.

“If you don’t spend much time in the sun or are always careful to cover your skin (sunscreen inhibits vitamin D production), you should speak to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement, particularly if you have risk factors for vitamin D deficiency,” Dr. Bathala added.

Ingalls Quick Care in Crestwood is located at Cal Sag Road at Cicero. Hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 708.915.ASAP (2727).

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