Living Well: Why vitamin D is essential to health |

Living Well: Why vitamin D is essential to health

Memorial Regional Health/For Craig Press
MRH offered lab testsBlood cell count ($10): Measures white, red and platelets in blood; screens for abnormalities.• Blood chemistry ($25): Measures kidney, liver and thyroid function, as well as glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, ferritin and overall nutritional status.• Chlamydia/gonorrhea ($50): Urine screen for two sexually-transmitted diseases.• Hemoglobin A1c ($20): Measures blood sugar (glucose) levels over past 3 months to detect for diabetes.• Hep C ($20): Screens for a past or current infection of the hepatitis C virus (HCV).• HIV ($30): Screens for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); all adults should be screened at least once.• Prostate specific antigen (PSA) ($10): Gives level of blood protein associated with prostate cancer; men only.• Testosterone ($40): Total testosterone test to check for deficiency; men only.• Vitamin B12 ($20): Gives levels of this important essential vitamin for healthy nerves and blood cells.• Vitamin D ($40): Gives levels of this important essential vitamin for healthy bones, immune system, brain and nervous system.MRH March into HealthWhat: Blood drawsWhen: 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday through March 30; weekends by appointmentWhere: The Memorial Hospital lab, 750 Hospital LoopInformation: 970-826-3122

If you could take a supplement that would likely guard you against some cancers, the common cold and other viruses, would you? Many are saying, “yes” and taking daily supplements of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is one nutrient many experts agree is helpful to take as a supplement. That’s because vitamin D has gone through more rigorous studies than many other vitamins and has been found to have several health benefits. Recent research shows vitamin D may be important in preventing and treating a number of serious health problems.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin, which means our bodies need it to function. Most essential vitamins are not produced by our bodies and must be taken in through the foods we eat. Vitamin D is different; our bodies can produce it with the help of adequate sunlight. Today, with the increased use of sun protection and more time spent indoors, many people are deficient in vitamin D. According to a recent WebMD article, an estimated 40 to 75 percent of people are deficient. People following a strict vegan diet are more at risk.

If you’re curious about your own vitamin D levels, ask your doctor, or attend the MRH March into Health event and get your vitamin D levels checked for $40.

Studied benefits of vitamin D

According to recent studies, adequate levels of vitamin D are shown to do the following.

• Keep bones strong and help avoid osteoporosis. (Some studies support taking vitamin K with vitamin D, as vitamin K promotes calcium accumulation in bones, according to Healthline).

• Possibly reduce heart disease risk and high blood pressure .

• Lower risk of colorectal cancer and may reduce risk of other cancers, including breast, prostate and pancreatic, according to the National Cancer Institute. (In a study by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, low vitamin D was found to be prevalent in most cancer patients).

• Boost the immune system and protect against viruses, such as the common cold.

• May reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

• Likely plays a key role in maintaining cognitive function as we age.

• Can reduce the severity of asthma.

How much to take

You are ready to jump on the vitamin D bandwagon — now what?

First, know there are different forms of vitamin D. The recommended form to take is vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol. It’s the natural form of vitamin D your body makes from sunlight. There is debate about whether vitamin D2 is just as helpful, but a recent study published by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3.

The Institute of Medicine recommends adults take 600 international units of vitamin D a day, and for those older than 70, that amount should be increased to 800 IU a day. Some doctors believe these recommendations are somewhat low and find a higher dose benefits many people. Ask your own doctor how much is best for you.

Lab tests at MRH

Vitamin D is just one of the several offered tests hot link to MRH during MRH’s March into Health event. Other tests include a blood chemistry test, blood cell count, Hemoglobin A1c, Hep C, Chlamydia/Gonorrhea, HIV, PSA, Testosterone and Vitamin B12.

Plan to get your labs drawn this month, and attend the annual health fair from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 14 at the Colorado Northwestern Community College campus to review your results with a medical provider.