Health Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency

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Although medical practitioners have long recognized the role that Vitamin D plays in one’s health, only recently have we become aware of how many people are deficient in this essential vitamin.  About two-thirds of individuals worldwide suffer from Vitamin D deficiency and, although that number is less in the United States, some of us experience muscle pain, weakness, falls, fractures and/or bone pain from inadequate levels. Although less clear cut, low levels of Vitamin D may also be linked to depression, heart attack, stroke and colon cancer.  People who have malabsorption problems (see What is Celiac Disease?), aged 65 years or older (see Osteoporosis), are obese, dark skinned, sedentary, breast feeding, exposed to little sunlight and/or taking steroids or on anti-seizure medication have a higher than average risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency.

Ninety percent of the Vitamin D that the body uses comes from sunlight.  Foods such as fish (especially salmon and mackerel), fortified milk, orange juice and cereal provide only small amounts of this vitamin.  Infants, children and adults up to age 50 need at least 400IU of Vitamin D per day, while adults 50-69 require 600IU and those 70 and older need a minimum of 700-800IU.  Because many of us live in northern latitudes with less direct sunlight and longer, darker winters, the USPSTF recommends taking these amounts through a vitamin supplement.  Daily doses up to 2,000IU carry little long term health risk.  Some people will need higher dose prescription-strength Vitamin D to correct low levels rapidly.  Any individual taking doses over 2,000IU per day should be medically supervised.  Signs and symptoms of Vitamin D excess include headache, metallic taste, nausea, vomiting, kidney stones and pancreatitis.

We regularly test for and treat vitamin D deficiency.  If you feel you may have vitamin D deficiency, or further questions regarding this issue, feel free to contact our office by clicking here.  You may also call us at 208-772-5204.

If you are new to our practice and have questions about our program, you can find more here on our What Is Direct Primary Care and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

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