We’ve all heard that we need to get our vitamin D and go outside to soak up the rays of the sun—but not too much. This is told to make our bodies stronger and healthier. However, according to a new study, vitamin-D deficiency not only affects your bone strength or muscle health, but also can be contributing your brain function.

In the study, researchers monitored elderly Chinese to find that “regardless of gender and extent of advanced age,” individuals with less vitamin D were twice as likely to “exhibit significant cognitive decline over time.” Thus, we can infer that vitamin D is necessary for ideal brain function.

The findings back the theory that vitamin D actually protects neuron loss and damage. As a result, vitamin D is much more necessary then we had ever conceived. This is troubling for those who don’t receive so much sunlight due to location or lifestyle.

For example, in the UK, the average person only takes in about 3 micrograms of vitamin D in food. Meanwhile, there is little exposure to sunlight year-round, putting them at increased risks for bone-related diseases, and now we know cognitive decline. Public Health England (PHE) has previously suggested people take vitamin D supplements, about 10 micrograms a day, which is still far less than ideal. It’ll be interesting to see how these new findings affect people living in these types of environments.

Already women are at increased risk, since, historically, female bones deteriorate at a faster rate then men. But the population as whole can benefit from watching their vitamin D intake, with studies suggesting vitamin D can aid in battling cancer, cardiovascular disease and multiple sclerosis.

And you might be wondering about the horror stories of too much sun, like skin cancer? PHE and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in America have come forward to say that actually too much sunscreen is preventing critical vitamin D-producing sunrays. Thus, a little sun without sunscreen is actually good! The NIH suggests around five to thirty minutes of sun exposure between the hours of 10 am and 3pm for sufficient vitamin D intake.

If you’re living in an environment wear the sun is lacking, then consider taking supplements or consuming foods higher in vitamin D, such as: salmon, sardines, eggs, or shitake mushrooms. Do keep in mind that it’s difficult to achieve sufficient vitamin D from dietary sources alone and that the sun offers a much stronger range of health benefits further than vitamin D. See more on supplementing your vitamin D from an article by Dr Mercola here.

Vitamin D is necessary and important to living a healthy lifestyle without health complications, cognitive decline, and even serious disease. If you think you’re not getting enough vitamin D, start with taking five minutes out of your day to soak up the sun. Or ask your doctor about your vitamin levels and possible supplements. Overall, continue to understand the vital need for vitamin D as your life accelerates forward. So get up and go outside!