Bone and Joint Health

3 Tips to Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency After Orthopedic Surgery

If you're facing the prospect of orthopedic surgery, you want to use every advantage you can to make sure that the operation goes successfully. Perhaps you've already considered taking calcium before surgery to help your bones heal afterwards, but here's a tip you may not have thought of: Make sure that you're not deficient in vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency has received a lot of attention lately, and rightfully so, because many Americans don't get adequate amounts of vitamin D. In fact, people who live in an area that the Harvard School of Public Health classifies as "north of the line connecting San Francisco to Philadelphia" likely lack adequate levels of vitamin D.

How to Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency

Crucial to bone health, vitamin D helps the body absorb and use calcium. It also helps strengthen muscles, which support bones. It makes sense for anyone considering orthopedic surgery, such as a knee or hip replacement, to make sure that their bodies have adequate levels of vitamin D. Start boosting your levels before surgery and maintain them afterward by following these three tips:

  1. Soak up the sun. There's a reason they call vitamin D the sunshine vitamin. Exposing your skin to the sun's ultraviolet type B (UVB) light is the best way for you to increase your levels of vitamin D. UVB exposure triggers a chemical process that causes certain skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. One way to get a little sun exposure each day is to talk a walk with your spouse or friends. You should be mindful, however, that excessive sun exposure can lead to skin aging and cancer. If you have a history of skin cancer, you may want to get your vitamin D from sources other than the sun. Also, UVB exposure may not be enough to boost vitamin D levels in people with darker skin.
  2. Consume foods and drinks that are rich in vitamin D. Egg yolks and saltwater fish are two rich sources of vitamin D, according to MedlinePlus. You also can eat vitamin-D-fortified cereals and grains. Milk is another good source of vitamin D. Today, even low-fat milk is usually fortified with vitamin D, and it's already an excellent source of calcium, as well. Drinking milk with vitamin D gives your bones a double dose of nutrition.
  3. Take regular vitamin D supplements. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin D, according to the National Institutes of Health, is 600 international units (IU) for everyone over one year of age and 800 IU for people over age 70. Vitamin D gelcaps are inexpensive and easy to swallow. The supplements are generally considered safe, but check with your physician if you have questions about whether or not you should take them.

The prospect of orthopedic surgery can be unsettling, but you can take back some control by giving your body the essential nutrients, such as vitamin D, that it needs to heal. Boosting your body's natural healing systems can give you peace of mind and the confidence to get through the surgery with ease.

Posted in Bone and Joint Health

Elizabeth Hanes, RN, BSN, taps her broad journalistic background to craft health and wellness content that inspires, engages, and entertains readers. Her byline has appeared in print and online publications ranging from AntiqueWeek to PBS' Next Avenue. An expert in elderly care issues, Elizabeth won an Online Journalism Award in 2010 in the Online Commentary/Blogging category for "Dad Has Dementia," a piece based on her experience caring for her father. In addition to her bachelor’s of science in nursing, Elizabeth holds a BA in creative writing.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.