You take a multivitamin, so you assume you’re getting enough vitamin D, the vitamin critical for bone health. But if you’re over age 50, your body’s less able to absorb and use vitamin D, and a deficiency could increase your risk for fractures.
Consider the answers to questions about vitamin D’s effect on your health.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in food and made by your body after sun exposure. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, keeps your bones and muscles strong and may boost your immune system and prevent certain cancers.
You may not get enough vitamin D if you:
- get limited sun exposure
- don’t consume enough vitamin D–rich foods
- are African-American or have dark skin
- are over age 50
The Institute of Medicine recommends 400 IU a day for adults ages 51 to 69 and 600 IU for adults 70 and older. Warning: Consuming more than 2,000 IU of vitamin D could lead to digestive disturbances, confusion, abnormal heart rhythms and impaired kidney function.
A glass of fortified milk gives you 98 IU of vitamin D. Other good food sources are fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel and fortified cereals, margarine and orange juice. A tablespoon of cod liver oil provides a whopping 1,360 IU of vitamin D. Your body can form active vitamin D from 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight twice a week to the hands, arms, face or back without sunscreen—but don’t stay out any longer without applying protection.
Bone pain and muscle weakness may indicate a deficiency, but symptoms can be too subtle to tell. If you’re concerned, ask your healthcare provider about getting a blood test to measure vitamin D levels and find out whether you need a supplement.