Question: What’s the single most important blood test you should do, even if you think you are very healthy?
Answer: 25-OH Vitamin D (Your Vitamin D Level)
Vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic and everyone is at risk–from infants to the elderly.
As most people work indoors and put on sunscreen whenever they go outside there is little opportunity for the sun’s UVB rays to hit their skin and produce sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. Walls, windows, clothes, and sunscreen all block UVB rays and thus prevent Vitamin D production.
The best way to make Vitamin D (for free, I might add) is to live less than 35 degrees north or south of the equator and go outside when the sun is high up in the sky, then expose as much of your skin as possible to the sun, for anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes, depending on your skin type. You are NOT to burn.
Unfortunately, from about November to March (“Vitamin D Winter” in the USA), if you live farther than 40 degrees north of the equator (Portland, Chicago, New York, Boston), the atmosphere filters out all the UVB and you won’t be able to make any Vitamin D from sun exposure. That’s right, going outside on a sunny day doesn’t necessarily mean you will be making Vitamin D. It depends on where you live, the season of the year, the time of day, your skin type, cloud cover, how long you stay outside, how much of your skin you expose, and a few other variables. Too many factors get in the way of making a good guess at how much Vitamin D you are actually making.
(The best way I have to found to at least find out if there is enough UVB available outside to make Vitamin D in your location is to use the “D Minder” app on the iPhone. However, downloading this app is NOT an excuse not to get tested!)
Traditional amounts of oral supplementation through food fortification and dietary supplements (unless your doctor is “in the know”) is a drop in the bucket to what the body actually needs.
What’s the big deal?
- Low Vitamin D levels (and low sunlight exposure) are associated with an increased risk of:
- Breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and many other cancers
- Autoimmune Diseases
- High Blood Pressure
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Cesarean delivery
- Osteopenia (bone lose), Rickets, and Osteoporosis
- Muscle aches, chronic pain, and fibromyalgia
- Colds and the flu
And many more problems!
What is more, you cannot FEEL a Vitamin D deficiency. There is no specific sign or symptom of Vitamin D deficiency. In other words, neither you nor your doctor would be able to know your Vitamin D level without a blood test.
Again, Vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic, and you can’t feel if you are deficient. So the only safe thing to do is assume you are deficient and get tested to find out just how much more Vitamin D you need. That’s why I consider checking one’s Vitamin D level to be the single most important blood test to do, even if you think you are very healthy.
Even if you tan or get sun exposure on a regular basis, you have no way of knowing if you are making enough Vitamin D–until you get your level checked. (By the way, if you use a tanning bed, you have to use one that has UVB emitting lights in it, or you won’t be making Vitamin D.)
Normal levels of Vitamin D are between 30-100 ng/ml, with optimal levels considered to be 50-80 ng/ml. For those interested in learning more about Vitamin D, click here to watch a most excellent video on the topic.
Action Point: Ask your doctor to check your “25-OH Vitamin D” level, and tell your friends and family to get their levels tested as well. Or, check your Vitamin D level on your own, and then discuss with your doctor. For a 15% discount, use coupon code: Mytests