You may have heard about the importance of vitamin D for your overall health and well-being, but should you get tested for deficiency? Here’s what you should know, from Premera Medical Director, Dr. Josephine Young.
What is vitamin D and what does it do?
Vitamin D is a nutrient your body needs for good health. Vitamin D protects you from developing osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break. In addition, vitamin D also supports immune health, muscle function, and brain cell activity.
What is the current vitamin D testing recommendation?
Vitamin D testing is not recommended for the general population. Your provider may consider checking your vitamin D level if you are among the small number of people who are at high risk for significant vitamin D deficiency due to having certain chronic health conditions, specific symptoms, or other risk factors. Treating slightly low vitamin D levels for otherwise healthy individuals does not require testing. In most cases, a routine test will not be covered by insurance plans unless a medically necessary health condition warrants it.
How do I make sure I’m getting enough vitamin D?
Proper vitamin D levels can be maintained through a combination of sun exposure, diet, and supplements as needed.
- Get consistent amounts of sun exposure: Your body makes vitamin D when your bare skin is exposed to the sun. In areas with strong mid-day sunlight, five to thirty minutes of sun exposure daily to twice a week in the spring, summer, and fall may produce all the vitamin D needed throughout the year. People living in areas with limited strong mid-day sunlight will likely benefit from some supplementation.
- Note: ultraviolet radiation from sunshine can cause skin cancer, so it’s important to limit how much time you spend in the sun.
- Eat a varied diet: Some vitamin D can be found in milk, orange juice, yogurt (many of which are often vitamin D fortified), beef liver, and fatty fish (trout, tuna, and mackerel). Also, plant-based milks, breakfast cereals, fish liver oils, egg yolks, cheeses, and mushrooms all contain some vitamin D. However, it is hard to get the full amount of vitamin D that you need through diet alone.
- Supplements as needed: Your primary care provider can help you determine if and how much supplementation you personally may need. In routine cases, testing is not required to start supplementation.
- Note: vitamin D can interact or interfere with other medicines and supplements, so talk to your healthcare provider before taking supplements.
The most powerful tool on your healthcare journey is a primary care provider (PCP) who knows you well and can guide and support your care with regular preventive visits. If you don’t have a PCP, use the Premera Find a Doctor tool to locate a provider near you.
If you have questions or concerns about your health, it’s always best to consult with your primary care provider before making any changes.