Vitamin D has several benefits — from strengthening your bones, muscles and teeth to potentially helping maintain strong immunity. The best part is your body can make its own Vitamin D, naturally synthesised while you soak in the sun! However, in this age of urbanisation and sedentary lifestyles, we may not get the required daily sunlight exposure.
Many barriers can stand in the way. Age is one such barrier, with Vitamin D production becoming less efficient as you grow older. Air pollution, which is high in India, can also cast a veil between you and direct sunlight, hampering the transmission of UVB rays. Further, Vitamin D levels tend to drop during the winter.
Thus, despite India being a tropical country with an abundance of sunlight, Vitamin D deficiency is widespread among Indians. A 2020 pan-India study conducted by Dr Sanjiv Goel , M.S., MCH (ORTHO), Guardian Hospital, Jalandhar, suggested that 76 per cent of the Indian population, across the north, south, east and west zones, suffer from Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency, with this deficiency being most prevalent amongst 18-30-year-old Indians at a rate of 82.5 per cent. The study was published in International Journal of Research in Orthopaedics in May-June 2020.
Commenting on this finding, Dr Srirupa Das, medical director, Abbott said, “This study shows that Vitamin D deficiency is not just a concern for older persons, but also for the younger population. It is a public health risk for all. A deficiency in Vitamin D is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and other bone-related diseases. There is a need to raise awareness of the importance of vitamin D to ensure that everyone can take action to get enough of this vital nutrient and stay in good health.”
Here are some easy, actionable tips you can implement immediately to increase your Vitamin-D intake.
Maximise your time in the sun
Increase your exposure to sunlight, but it would be advisable to equip yourself with the facts on the most beneficial timing and duration. Exposure to direct sunlight for 35-40 minutes around noon is ideal. A terrace or a balcony may be a convenient option, as you can carry your laptop and continue working with a change of environment, or read a book in leisure, thus easily taking care of your health needs.
Schedule more activities outdoors
A sedentary lifestyle can take a toll on your Vitamin D levels, as can obesity. Regularly walking, cycling, doing yoga or exercising outdoors can not only help ensure you get enough sunlight exposure, but also contribute to maintaining a healthy body weight.
However, in between your busy daily schedule, jumping from tab to tab and from one Zoom meeting to the next, this may not always be possible. Here, foods rich in Vitamin D can help.
Load your grocery shopping list with these items
Foods that are rich sources of Vitamin D include fish like salmon, tuna and sardines, cod liver oil, and shrimp. Many of these foods are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarians don’t need to fret, as mushrooms and cheese can be great sources of Vitamin D as well.
Consult your doctor to ensure you’re on track
If your lifestyle doesn’t permit you to consistently get enough sunlight exposure or alter your diet in the right direction, another option is to consult your doctor, who may recommend that you take Vitamin D supplements. Taking a doctor-recommended supplement can treat any deficiency effectively and help maintain a good, healthy level of Vitamin D in the future.
Given that the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency is high, even amongst younger persons, it is important to not only take action for yourself, but also to educate others on why they need Vitamin D, and consequently, the ways in which they can maintain optimal levels of this essential vitamin.