Osteoporosis is often a silent disease, as there are virtually no symptoms until a bone fracture occurs. Because of this, many women do not worry about their osteoporosis risk until they are diagnosed. But you shouldn’t wait until your bones are weak and brittle to give attention to your health.
Studies suggest that about 50 percent of women over the age of 50 will suffer a fracture related to bone loss, and one in five patients who have such fractures will die within a year. In fact, the annual incidence rate of osteoporotic fractures in women is greater than the combined incidence rates of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer. And vitamin D deficiency could be a factor.
Just as vitamin D deficiency has been linked with muscle weakness, increased fall risks, and bone fractures, researchers pioneered a study to determine the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among postmenopausal women with wrist fractures.
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Low Vitamin D Level? Consider These Risks
Wrist fractures (also called distal radius fractures) are among the most common osteoporosis-related fractures occurring on average 15 years earlier than hip fractures. In fact, in a study presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, low Levels of vitamin D were found in 44 percent of postmenopausal women with wrist fracture.
So what’s the best way to boost your vitamin D level? Every day, you should be getting an adequate amount of vitamin D to maintain good bone health. You can achieve this via sunlight and supplements as well as dietary considerations.
- Sunlight. UVB radiation from the sun striking the skin converts cholesterol in our body to vitamin D. Then the body converts vitamin D into a steroid hormone fixing damaged cells and maintaining good cell health. Plan to go out in the sun without any sunscreen for long enough so that your skin turns the very lightest pink. This should be from 10 to 30 minutes. Also, get enough of your skin exposed to sun. Exposing only your face and hands may not be enough for adequate conversion into vitamin D. But remember, don’t get sunburned! The huge benefits of a daily 20-minute sun exposure will change to potential harm if you stay out longer without protection and end up getting sunburned.
- Supplements. Undoubtedly, the best way to get your vitamin D is from skin exposure to the sun, but some of us have schedules that just do not allow that to happen. In that case, you’ll need to supplement with vitamin D3, the most readily absorbable form. You should take a vitamin D3 supplement that gives you at least 1,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. It’s recommended that you work with your doctor and let him periodically run a test called the 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test to make sure you’re not overdosing but have the optimal levels of Vitamin D. Adjust your D3 intake accordingly.
- Diet. Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are known to be strong sources of vitamin D, as are mushrooms and egg yolks. Other foods that naturally contain vitamin D are organ meats (offal) and high-fat dairy. Muscle meat (beef, pork, chicken, lamb) has some vitamin D, but the concentrations are not considerable. See our post “Natural Food Sources of Vitamin D” for details.
A Vitamin D Strategy
Maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is relatively easy to do and yields huge benefits. So here’s a summary of what you should do:
- Start now increasing your vitamin D levels by getting more sun exposure, by supplementing with vitamin D3, and considering diet sources high in vitamin D.
- At your next regular doctor’s visit, have your physician run the vitamin D blood test. Evaluate the results to determine whether your blood level is in the optimum range for maximum disease prevention. Sometimes you won’t be motivated to take action until you see in black and white how deficient you are.
- If your vitamin D levels are indeed low, talk to your doctor about increasing your supplement to the upper part of the range recommended above.
 International Osteoporosis Foundation.
 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Low Levels Of Vitamin D Found In 44 Percent Of Postmenopausal Women With Wrist Fracture.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 10 Feb. 2012. Web.
Originally published in 2012 and updated.