TMH Living Well: The powers of vitamin D | CraigDailyPress.com

TMH Living Well: The powers of vitamin D

The Memorial Hospital

Myndi Christopher

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

When it comes to vitamins, many experts vary in their opinions about whether you should take supplements. Some say you don't need any supplements, thinking people get all their needed vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet. Others think supplements are helpful, especially when our diets are not perfect.

Need a supplement?

Vitamin D is one nutrient that 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 simply means that 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.

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If you're curious about your own vitamin D levels, ask your doctor or attend the TMH Community Health Fair on April 26 and get your vitamin D levels checked for $40.

Benefits of vitamin D

According to recent studies, adequate levels of vitamin D are shown to:

■ Keep bones strong and help avoid osteoporosis;

■ Possibly reduce heart disease risk and high blood pressure;

■ Lower the risk of colorectal cancer, and possibly reduce the 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;

■ Possibly reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis;

■ Likely play a key role in maintaining cognitive function as we age; and

■ Can reduce the severity of asthma.

"Taking vitamin D is an important way to prevent osteoporosis or its predecessor, osteopenia, and possibly other diseases. Take calcium and vitamin D together, as the vitamin D helps bones absorb calcium," advised Dr. Jim Summers, OBGYN with The Memorial Hospital at Craig.

How much to take

So, you are ready to jump on the vitamin D bandwagon. Now what?

First, know that 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 that 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 per day, and for those older than 70, increase that amount to 800 IU per day.

Some doctors think these recommendations are somewhat low and find a higher dose benefits many people. Ask your own doctor how much is best for you.

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

Get your vitamin D checked at the TMH Health Fair!

Health screens are great baselines for maintaining good health! The community health fair offers low-cost screenings and labs to rule out diseases, such as diabetes, colon cancer, prostate cancer, cholesterol and more. The Vitamin D screen gives levels of this important essential vitamin needed to ward off osteoporosis and several cancers, and for healthy immune function. Educational booths will also be available on how to get and stay healthy.

When: 7:30 a.m. to noon, April 26

Where: The Memorial Hospital, 750 Hospital Loop, Craig

Info: 970-824-9411 or http://www.thememorialho…