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    T.R., JUMPSTART Program Participant from VA
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    by Pat Kennedy RN, CNP, MSCN, Can Do MS Nurse Educator & Programs Consultant

    It seems you can’t pick up a publication these days without reading about how many of us seem to have low levels of Vitamin D.  It never seemed to be a problem before; why is it now? 

    Thirty to sixty percent of us are at risk of low Vitamin D levels.  The causes are not known, but may be related to the use of sunscreen, skin pigmentation, obesity and aging.  Medications, such as steroids and seizure medications, may contribute to lower levels of Vitamin D as well.

    Vitamin D seems to have many health implications in: 
    - Autoimmune diseases: multiple sclerosis (MS), Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes and others
    - Cardiac: hypertension, heart disease 
    - Cancer: breast, colon, prostate, pancreas 
    - Lung: asthma, wheezing, 
    - Psychiatric: depression, schizophrenia

    There may be more.  The implications for MS include an increased risk for osteoporosis and the possibility of worsening MS symptoms.

    Researchers presented information at the World Congress on Treatment and Research in MS in Montreal in September that indicates the higher the levels of Vitamin D in children, the lower the risk of developing MS.  Experts have long discussed the environmental phenomenon of increased MS occurrence in areas further from the equator indicating decreased UV rays may increase the risk for MS.

    Early research indicates Vitamin D mildly inhibits the immune system.  In the mouse model of MS, Vitamin D decreases disease severity.  Epidemiologic studies (studies of populations) show decreased risk of MS with in those with higher levels of Vitamin D or increased Vitamin D intake.

    Many health care providers are now checking their patients for Vitamin D levels.  The problem is that we are not sure what supplementation amounts are needed.  Consequently, levels of supplements are varied.  It is important that you discuss your Vitamin D level with your provider.  Blood testing must be done to know if you are deficient.  It is not recommended to take Vitamin D supplements without testing and guidance.

    Learn more about Vitamin D:

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