Dr. Dan Hehir, Chief of Medical Staff, Board Certified in Emergency Medicine


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Dr. Dan Hehir, Chief of Medical Staff, Board Certified in Emergency Medicine

Dr. Dan Hehir, Chief of Medical Staff, Board Certified in Emergency Medicine

This week, Dr. Dan Hehir shines a light on Vitamin D:

Recognition of Vitamin D deficiency in the population has increased considerably in the last few years. While the most severe form of vitamin D deficiency has long been known to cause rickets, which manifests as very weak and malformed bones, we are finding out that chronic mild to moderate vitamin D deficiency can be tied to a number of health problems including:

muscle weakness
cognitive impairment
increased cardiovascular disease
increased rates of some forms of cancer

Ongoing research has shown increased rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and multiple sclerosis in people deficient in vitamin D. It seems the vitamin is more important in a variety of immunologic and metabolic processes in our bodies than was previously suspected.

You can get vitamin D three ways: dietary intake, exposure to direct sunlight and vitamin supplementation.

Foods that are high in vitamin D include some fatty fishes (salmon and tuna),-eggs, fish liver oil (most commonly cod) — alfalfa, and some mushrooms. Also, many food products such as fortified milk and grains contain extra vitamin D, which has gone a long way in making rickets a rarity in this country. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get your full requirement of vitamin D solely from your diet.

Another source is direct sunlight. But even in our area we see vitamin D deficiency in people who spend plenty of time in the sun, thanks to hats, sunglasses, long pants, shirt and sunscreen. To adequately soak up enough vitamin D, you’d need to expose bare skin to the sun for 10-15 minutes at a time about three times a week, which is at odds with what we are constantly hearing about the risks of skin cancer at altitude. And, you should never get enough sun to cause your skin to redden.

The third source if vitamin D is vitamin supplementation. Recommendations for healthy adults are for supplementation of 600 IU of vitamin D daily. Those supplements can be found in any supermarket or pharmacy and there are many to choose from.

Vitamin D deficiency is finally being recognized as a real problem in our culture. Fortunately, it is easily detected and easily treated. Talk to your doctor about adding a vitamin D test to your next routine blood draw.


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