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Preventive Maintenance: What you need to know about Vitamin D

Think about when your truck was new. When it was first built, it boasted a strong, solid frame....

Think about when your truck was new. When it was first built, it boasted a strong, solid frame.

But as time goes by, if you decide to neglect it and not bother with ongoing, proper maintenance, salt will corrode the frame away and strain will break its welds. Without proper care, your rig could become unstable, undependable and too weak to carry your payload.

You do everything to make sure this doesn’t happen. Well – just like your truck frame needs to be taken care of, your body’s frame needs maintenance, too!

Your skeletal frame also has a load to bear. Just think about how many times each day you jump down from the cab of your truck. Each time your feet hit the pavement, pounds of pressure jolt the bones in your feet, ankles, legs and hips.

Are they going to hold you? Don’t take it for granted.

There are steps you can take to keep your bones strong, so they can keep standing up to the strain. If you don’t, you’re headed for a fall.

In North America every year, over 300,000 people fall, breaking their hips, usually because of weak bones.

One of the most common causes is osteoporosis. But until people break something, they don’t usually know they have this problem.

What is osteoporosis? The letters “osteo” in a word means it has something to do with bones. And “porosis” means something with holes. So this word “osteoporosis” literally means “bones with holes.” Obviously, bones with holes don’t make strong frames.

If you develop osteoporosis, you may be affected in the following ways: You may become shorter because the bones in your spine compress. When this happens, you’ll likely have chronic pain, because the nerves running from your spine will get pinched.

As well, your bones will break more easily. And one of the most common bones to break is a hip. (Think about this the next time you jump down from your rig to fuel up or grab a coffee.)

This condition becomes more serious as you get older. As our bodies age we can’t build new bones, or repair broken bones as easily. That’s why now is the time to make sure you do everything you can to keep your skeleton in tip-top shape.

First of all, a diet with enough calcium is essential. Everyone knows that bones are made of calcium, but did you know that your body can’t use calcium effectively without Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is the key that unlocks the calcium and lets your body use it. Since this is not so well-known, lots of people don’t make sure they get enough Vitamin D.

Many experts refer to Canada’s Vitamin D deficiency as a “silent epidemic” because it is so widespread, but isn’t usually known or treated.

How can you treat this problem? Prevent it from happening in the first place!

Every day your body needs enough calcium and Vitamin D to keep your systems working properly.

If you don’t get enough to keep your heart, brain, muscles and lungs working properly, your body steals calcium from your bones. Over time, they become weak and thin.

We all know what to eat for calcium: dairy foods (milk, cheese), small fish (especially with bones), tofu (bean curd), greens (broccoli, chard) and legumes.

If you’re under 50, 1,000 mg per day is enough. People over 50 should take a little more: 1,200 mg each day.

A cup of milk has 300 mg; a cup of yogurt: 400+; 1/12 ounce of Swiss cheese has 400+; and three ounces of sardines with bones has 300+. Now, to get the value from this calcium, add Vitamin D.

Where do you get Vitamin D? Primarily from sunlight. When sunlight touches your bare skin (without sunscreen) your body can make its own Vitamin D. Only 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight on your face and arms two or three times a week is enough.

This is great in the summer, but what about now, when it’s cold and the ground still may have a bit of snow?

This time of year, you can get Vitamin D from cod liver oil, fortified cereals and some fatty fish. As well, milk often has Vitamin D added, but not cheese or yogurt (look at the labels).

You’ll need four glasses of milk each day to get enough Vitamin D. But if you don’t like milk, you may consider using supplements.

Be careful though, the daily requirement is just 400 IU; more than 1,000 IU can make you sick instead of keeping you healthy. Because Vitamin D is stored in your fat, your body can accumulate too much over time (again, read the labels for the strength of the supplements.)

And remember, nothing is stronger than its frame. Not your truck. Not your body. Take the time to maintain both.

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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