While it may be a little more challenging to get enough vitamin D than other vitamins, it is important that you make the effort to consume enough of this crucial vitamin. Emerging research on how vitamin D deficiency increases cardiovascular risk emphasizes the importance of ensuring that you are getting enough on a daily basis. Here is what you need to know about vitamin D and how you can ensure that you are providing your body with the proper amount.
What is Vitamin D?
This fat-soluble vitamin is an essential micronutrient that is vital to the healthy development of bones and teeth. Although it is generally referred to as a vitamin, the micronutrient is actually a hormone.
Vitamin D is produced when ultraviolet (UV-B) rays from the sun hit the skin and start the process of vitamin D synthesis. This is why many people refer to vitamin D as the “sunshine vitamin.”
When present in foods and dietary supplements, the vitamin exists in two forms: Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol. These two forms of vitamin D differ only in their side-chain structures. Both forms of the vitamin are absorbed in the body’s small intestine.
Roles of Vitamin D
The most widely known role of vitamin D is its function in supporting and maintaining strong bones. The nutrient is also important for the support of healthy teeth. The right amount of vitamin D is essential to optimal immune system function, helping to ward off disease and illnesses.
Adequate levels of vitamin D have been linked to a lower A1C level, the measurement of long-term blood glucose in individuals with Type 2 diabetes. Proper intake of vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the chances of early-onset colorectal cancer. Taking a vitamin D supplement along with fish oil has been linked to a reduced chance of developing a number of autoimmune diseases as you age.
How Vitamin D Deficiency Increases Cardiovascular Risk
A new study out of Australia demonstrated how a deficiency in vitamin D may raise blood pressure levels and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in the process. As part of the study, researchers looked at the potential relationship between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, a marker for vitamin D levels, and the subsequent risk of developing cardiovascular issues.
The study found that individuals with a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of 25 nmol/l had an 11 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease when compared to those participants with concentrations of 50 nmol/l. The findings led the researchers to determine that it is possible that a deficiency in vitamin D may raise the risk of cardiovascular issues.
How to Ensure Adequate Levels of Vitamin D in the Body
Because it is primarily derived from the sun, it is not surprising to learn that many people lack this micronutrient. Vitamin D deficiency is particularly prevalent during the winter months when sun exposure is limited. Americans living above the 40th degree latitude line are at a greater risk of developing this deficiency during the months of November through February.
Here are a few ways that you can boost your levels of vitamin D.
Increase Sun Exposure
The best source of natural vitamin D is through the sun. A little bit of sun goes a long way in boosting your stores. Medical experts believe that 10 – 15 minutes of sun exposure over most days will provide sufficient vitamin D for the body to function properly.
However, it is important to note that sunscreen use, where you live and the time of the year may impact the ability of the body to harness the benefits of the sun for vitamin D production.
Eat Foods Rich in Vitamin D
While it may be a bit more challenging, you can boost your body’s vitamin D stores by being purposeful about eating foods rich in this nutrient. Good choices include fatty fish such as salmon, fortified dairy products, cereal and mushrooms.
Take a Supplement
The easiest way to get proper amounts of vitamin D is to take a supplement that includes this nutrient. You will feel good about protecting a variety of health functions both now and down the road if you are purposeful about getting in enough vitamin D each day. Even if you do not enjoy easy access to natural sunlight, you can take steps to ensure that your body has the vitamin D that it needs to function at optimal levels of health and wellness.