Vitamin D protects the nerves in your brain against Alzheimer’s disease. One of the most important lab tests to know is your Vitamin D level.

Vitamin D is essential for healthy brain function and really is important for about 400 different functions metabolically in our bodies. One thing we know for sure is that low Vitamin D is associated with global cognitive impairment. That means the brain is not working well in many aspects of your ability to think and reason.

The laboratory will tell you that the “normal” reference range for 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D is anywhere between 30 and 100 ng/mL. Actually the Endocrine Society and the National Institute of Medicine say that 21-29 is insufficiency and that you are not deficient unless your level is less than 20 (which is even lower than the lab reference range). In my world, anything less than 60 is too low.

Next, you’ll want to ask your regular doctor to get a 25-Hyroxy Vitamin D level. Then request to actually get the report because your doctor may say your level is normal but it’s the lab’s version of normal, which like I said is between 30 and 100. We would like to see your level between 60 and 80 for optimal brain function—and not only for optimal brain function. It’s the level which reduces your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Ask to see your report, and if your level is less than 60, either get Vitamin D supplementation or put yourself out in the sunlight for a brief time each day to raise that level. You can increase your Vitamin D level by 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure of your face and chest in the midday sun.

If you’re supplementing, and your Vitamin D is well below 60, if it’s in the 20-30 range, you will want to use 5,000 IU a day (at least) to get your Vitamin D levels up to a healthy level. If you take Vitamin D supplementation you will also want to take Vitamin K2 along with it, somewhere around 150 mcg a day.

Now why is this so important? Vitamin D has tremendous impact in the brain. It increases a neurotransmitter called Acetylcholine, which helps the transmission of information from one nerve to the other, particularly in the memory center of your brain. In addition, Vitamin D is anti-inflammatory and we know that symptoms as mild as brain fog up all the way up to full cognitive difficulties and memory problems are often caused by inflammation in the brain. So, any actions that you can do to lower brain inflammation are very, very potent treatments. And Vitamin D protects the nerves in your brain against Alzheimer’s disease.

So you will want to get your Vitamin D level checked, get a copy of your actual lab report so that you can see with your own eyes whether you are between the optimal levels of 60 and 80.

People often ask me if they can get vitamin D through foods and the answer is it’s very difficult. There are some vitamin D fortified foods like milk but you would need to drink a lot of milk, which for many people is not healthy, they either have lactose intolerance or we are trying to have them get off of dairy because it’s inflammatory to your brain, and it contains only a very small amount of Vitamin D. Other than cod liver oil, which naturally has good amounts of Vitamin D, it’s very difficult to get vitamin D through food products. So follow my directions, find out where you stand, and then do something about raising your levels if they are low. Your mind will thank you and your body will thank you.

Dr. Susan Sklar is the founder and medical director of the Sklar Center for Restorative Medicine where she helps midlife men and women look and feel better and lead longer, healthier lives. She uses the view of Restorative Medicine which recognizes that hormonal and other biochemical changes cause humans to age in ways that are not necessary or inevitable.  Replacement and balancing of these natural substances result in improved vitality and a longer healthy span of life with less chronic illness.   Dr. Sklar has completed her fellowship training in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine after  more than 25 years of experience as an obstetrician/gynecologist, placing her uniquely at the forefront of the care of men and women in midlife health transitions.  She sees private patients at her center in Long Beach, California.