Many people don’t have enough vitamin D in their bodies which increases the risk of fractures. It also can lead to other health problems, therefore doctors often order a blood test to measure vitamin D.Choosing wisely campaign has outlined facts to discourage indiscriminate, unnecessary ordering of the test and it may come handy for attending doctors for sharing the information with their patients.
- A test usually does not improve treatment.
Many people have low levels of vitamin D, but few have seriously low levels. Most of us don’t need a vitamin D test. We just need to make simple changes so we get enough D. We need to get a little more sun and follow the other advice on the at right.Even if you are at risk for other diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, a vitamin D test isn’t usually helpful. It is rather more important to make lifestyle changes to stop smoking, aiming for a healthy weight and be physically active and try to get enough vitamin D from sun and foods. And talk to your doctor about supplements.
- Extra tests lead to extra treatments and costs.
Getting tests that you don’t need often leads to treatments you don’t need, or treatments that can even be harmful. For example, if you take too much vitamin D, it can damage your kidneys and other organs.One blood test for vitamin D does not cost much.
- When should you have a vitamin D test?
Talk to your doctor about your risks. Here are some conditions where you might need a Vitamin D test: If you have osteoporosis. This disease makes your bones weak so that they are more likely to break.If you have a disease that damages your body’s ability to use vitamin D. These are usually serious and ongoing diseases of the digestive system, such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, kidney disease, liver disease, pancreatitis and others.If your doctor suggests getting a vitamin D test, ask about your risks. If your risk is high, you should get the test. If your risk is low, ask if you can avoid the test. Ask if you can boost your vitamin D with sunlight and food, and possibly supplements.
- How can you get enough vitamin D?
The daily recommended dose for adults under age 70 is 600 international units (IU). For adults over age 70, the daily dose is 800 IU.
- Get some sun.
The sun’s ultraviolet rays create vitamin D in your skin cells. You don’t need a lot of sun. A 10-minute walk in the midday sun can create as much as 15 times the amount of vitamin D that you need every day. Your body stores some of the extra vitamin D to help you in the darker winter months.
- Eat foods that are rich in vitamin D.
- Meat, poultry and fatty fish are rich in vitamin D.
- A small serving (3 ounces) of salmon has 530 IU.
- Shrimp, mackerel, sardines and fresh herring also are rich in vitamin D.
- Vitamin D is added to some foods, including tofu, orange juice, and some dairy products.
- Eat breakfast.
Two eggs, a glass of orange juice and a bowl of cereal with milk can add about 300 IU of vitamin D a day.
- Talk to your doctor about supplements.
- If you don’t get much sun and your diet is low in vitamin D, a supplement may help.
- In May 2013 Consumer Reports reviewed 32 vitamin D supplements and found that all passed basic industry standards.
Do not take more than 4,000 IU of vitamin D a day unless your doctor has advised you to do so. Too much vitamin D can be toxic and can damage your kidneys.
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Dr. Kamal Kant Kohli
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