Need Surgery? Check Your Vitamin D Levels First
In recent years it’s become increasingly apparent that vitamin D is one of the most important hormones in the body. Adequate levels of vitamin D have been linked to virtually every imaginable aspect of health. Higher levels of vitamin D have been associated with lower risks of everything from depression, to heart disease, to cancer. Sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is generated in the body through the action of ultraviolet light striking bare skin.
But far too many Americans fail to get enough sunlight exposure to keep their vitamin D levels within the adequate range. Getting as little as 15 minutes of unprotected exposure to summer sunlight is enough to provide you with all the vitamin D you need, at least for a day or two. But too many of us fail to take advantage of this natural mechanism. Sunscreen use, time spent indoors, heavy clothing—all of these interfere with this natural mechanism for keeping our vitamin D levels high. Eating foods like salmon, or fortified dairy products, can provide some vitamin D. But for most of us it may be a good idea to take supplemental vitamin D3, too. Up to 2,000 IU per day is perfectly safe and probably sufficient for most people.
Need more reasons to be take note of your own vitamin D status? Consider this finding: According to a recent study, low vitamin D levels among people undergoing non-cardiac surgery were linked to worse outcomes, including a greater risk of infection, complications, and death. The study also concluded, as many others have previously reported, that a majority of patients who underwent non-cardiac surgeries had either vitamin D insufficiency or outright deficiency. Up to 80 percent of patients had blood levels that were less than adequate.
Those patients may have paid a steep price, too, because lower levels were associated with worse post-surgical outcomes. Generally, the higher a patient’s level at the time of surgery, the more likely he or she was to experience a smooth recovery, free of infection or other complications. Patients with the lowest vitamin D levels were most likely to suffer serious complications or even death.
Alparslan Turan, Brian D. Hesler, Jing You, Leif Saager, Martin Grady, Ryu Komatsu, Andrea Kurz, Daniel I. Sessler. The Association of Serum Vitamin D Concentration with Serious Complications After Noncardiac Surgery. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000000096