There’s been a great deal of information in the news about Vitamin D, your health and heart. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a role in many important body functions. It is best known for working with calcium in your body to help build and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D is also involved in regulating the immune system and cells, where it may help prevent cancer.
A growing number of studies support the idea that low levels of vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, and that adding vitamin D supplements can help reduce this risk. Several large trials to learn more about this connection are underway, although there is not yet any conclusive evidence.
How Much Is Enough?
We know 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day is necessary to prevent rickets, but many physicians and researchers believe this level is too low to keep you at your healthiest and reduce the risk of disease. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) provides the current vitamin D recommendations:
- 200 International Units IU per day for adults age 50 and younger
- 400 IU per day for adults aged 51 to 70 years
- 600 IU per day for adults aged 70 years.
It is not clear just how much vitamin D is needed but many physicians are now recommending 1,000 IU to 2,000 IU daily for most adults. Your doctor can determine how much vitamin D you need. Talk to them before increasing the amount of vitamin D in your diet. Too much vitamin D can cause the body to absorb too much calcium, which can cause kidney stones or other damage.
What Foods Are High in Vitamin D?
There are some foods that contain vitamin D, and many contain additional disease-fighting nutrients. These include cod liver oil, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and herring; Vitamin D-fortified milk and cereal, and eggs.
What About the Sun?
Your body makes Vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun. The color of your skin can affect the production of Vitamin D. A fair-skinned person may only need about 45 minutes of sunlight a week, but a person with darker skin may need up to three hours. People must balance skin exposure, though, as too much can lead to melanoma, or other skin diseases.
If you’re concerned about your Vitamin D level, talk to your physician and see if they think a blood test is in order and what steps you can take to ensure you get the right amount.