How Does Vitamin D Enhance Your Healthspan?
Do you desire to feel vibrant for as long as possible while on this earth? The past century has been an incredible period of increasing life expectancy. While the average lifespan was only 56 years in 1919, it is now approaching 80 years. But a long life is not the absolute goal. Feeling great as long as possible is what most people desire! Your healthspan is the number of years that you are mentally sharp, brimming with energy, and fully engaged in life. The average Healthspan in the United States is too short and starts to decline somewhere between 64 and 69 years. It doesn’t have to be so! You can make incremental, sustainable changes that will positively alter your health trajectory. It’s easier than you think! START SOMEWHERE today addressing your Vitamin D level.
Often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” Vitamin D is essential for energy and zest for life. Vitamin D is available in two forms - D3 and D2. I will be referring to the D3 form in today’s post. The body was designed to produce Vitamin D naturally when exposed directly to sunlight; you can also get it through certain foods or quality supplements. An ample amount of Vitamin D will enhance your Healthspan. Here are some signs and symptoms that you may be deficient:
Irritability or moodiness
Muscle cramps and/or weakness
Joint pain (especially in the knees and back)
Low bone density (osteopenia/osteoporosis/bone softening)
Blood sugar abnormalities
Low blood calcium
Skin issues (psoriasis/eczema)
Vitamin D, known as 25 (OH) Vitamin D or Vitamin D3, is really a “prohormone” in that it benefits almost every cell in your body. Nearly every single cell, including the brain, has a Vitamin D receptor. Many of the symptoms above are easily overlooked and dismissed as normal, everyday aches and ailments.
So what is your optimal Vitamin D level? The most commonly accepted range for an “adequate” Vitamin D is 30 ng/ml. But from my recent medical school education, research, and clinical experience, most people feel best when their level is 50-70 ng/ml. In our society, that level is tough to glean solely from sunshine. You basically need to be “naked at noon” - outside with a lot of skin exposed when your shadow is shorter than you are. How does that work into your schedule? (Mine neither!)
Vitamin D3 deficiency is actually more the norm than the exception in the United States, especially north of the 37th parallel. Interestingly, because our brains have Vitamin D receptors, deficiency is commonly implicated in depressive and psychiatric disorders and plays an important role in mood, learning, memory, motor control, and possibly even social control. It is a superstar nutrient that you don’t want to be low in and I consider it to be foundational to vitality and for a robust Healthspan.
According to a study at Boston University, a deficiency actually negatively affects your DNA. “Any improvement in Vitamin D status will significantly affect expression of genes that have a variety of biologic functions of more than 160 pathways linked to cancer, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular disease.”
So what can you do if you suspect you have a deficiency in the Sunshine Vitamin? Ask your doctor for a blood test called the 25-hydroxy Vitamin D Test. It is also called Calcidiol 25-hydroxycholecalciferol test and is an accurate way to measure how much you have in your body. To prepare for the test, avoid eating for four hours before your appointment. You can also test your own Vitamin D without an order from a doctor via the Vitamin D Council, which is also an excellent resource of quality information.
Low levels can be reversed inexpensively. START SOMEWHERE today by:
1. Getting sunshine! Recommended sunlight exposure is 10 to 30 minutes. Be sure to have as much skin exposed as possible. This may require a tall fence!
2. Enjoy Vitamin D-rich foods. Salmon, eggs, mushrooms, and sardines are all high in this essential nutrient, as is cod liver oil.
3. Take a pharmaceutical-grade supplement. The vast majority of people that I’ve had measured find out that they are low and in need supplementation. I personally take a Vitamin K2/D3 combination manufactured by Xymogen. It is available only from doctors and private pharmacies. Because Vitamin D is fat soluble, be sure to take your supplement with a fatty meal.
4. Be sure you’re getting adequate magnesium. Vitamin D and Magnesium work together synergistically. Enjoy magnesium-rich foods such as spinach, dark chocolate (70% or more), nuts, avocado, legumes, bananas, seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens. A relaxing Epsom salts bath is another way to soak in Healthspan-enhancing Magnesium through your skin.
Bottom line: It is essential to get your level tested. There is much more to learn about Vitamin D and it’s role in helping you enjoy a longer, more vibrant Healthspan. I hope today’s post encourages you! START SOMEWHERE today by finding out your Vitamin D3 level. Create a sustainable environment of zest and vitality. You can do it. I will help you.
Your Healthspan Strategist,
P.S.: Be sure to watch my TEDx here and share it!