Do you slather on sun block to cover up from the sun? Does the worry of damaging effects from the sun prevent you from being outdoors? If your answer to these questions is yes, it may be important for you to know about the health effects of limited time in the sun. Spending just 10-15 minutes of peak hour time outside on a sunny day without sun screen, is one formula to produce enough Vitamin D to help prevent some serious health problems. Vitamin D-3 is also available as an inexpensive supplement.
The medical journal, The Archives of Internal Medicine published a study in August 2008 concluding that overall, people are 26% more likely to die prematurely if they are severely deficient in Vitamin D. In the science world and the real world both, this means an enormous number of people are affected. Alarmingly, findings in recent years show we are now in a global epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency. Why? Because we go from house to car to work indoors and use UV protective sunscreen when we spend any time outdoors and leave little chance for our skin to produce vitamin D. So maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels could prolong your life!
Why do you need Vitamin D? Like many, you may have been taught Vitamin D keeps your bones strong as an adult and growing properly if you are a child. While this is true, we now know there are many more vital functions of this fascinating vitamin.
In Addition, Vitamin D:
* Protects your heart: You'll be half as likely to have a heart attack if you maintain enough Vitamin D in your body.
* Helps Prevent Flu: Each Fall, just as you cover up from the cold, Vitamin D levels drop and the flu season begins. Vitamin D is required to make a compound that protects the body against the flu. Some researchers see this as a cause and effect sequence: that a drop in Vitamin D levels makes us more likely to catch the flu and other viruses
* Guards against Cancer: Even more exciting findings are that scientific studies suggest that Vitamin D helps prevent some cancers from forming in the body. Specifically, breast, ovary, colon, prostate and skin cancer are less likely to develop with adequate levels of Vitamin D.
* Eases one form of Depression: While cause and effect have not been established as of yet, there is a relationship between falling Vitamin D levels and the onset of depression in the shorter, cooler days of the year. This is known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD syndrome.
* Helps those with Multiple Sclerosis: Multiple sclerosis has been known for many years to be more common at more northern latitudes. Clear molecular biology evidence is now available, which demonstrates why MS patients do worse with Vitamin D deficiency and how they improve with Vitamin D supplementation.
How do you know if you are Vitamin D deficient? Your doctor may not be aware of the best test to find out. I recommend you write down the name of this specific blood test . Ask your doctor for a 25-hydroxy Vitamin D level. Most labs agree that levels of 32 ng/ml and higher are satisfactory. However, targeting optimal health requires a level of 40-50 (Vitamin D Council). Keep in mind that obtaining a level is important, as there is recent evidence that a level above 55 may be harmful.
How do you raise your level if it is low? A commonly held belief is that the best source of Vitamin D is milk. In fact, most deficient individuals would need to drink 20 glasses of milk a day to bring their level up to normal or higher. The safest method is to take Vitamin D-3 by mouth. You can find it very inexpensively at a store selling vitamins and other supplements. People who are deficient, need to start with a minimum of Vitamin D-3 , 1000 units a day. By comparison, we can generate 10,000 units over the course of a day with sun exposure, but then we have the concern about sun damage.
We need to understand that the skin's exposure to ultraviolet wavelengths of the sun's rays activate a key step in the body's manufacturing of Vitamin D. Ultraviolet A and B waves are also the cause of sun damage to the skin and can promote skin cancer. The paradox is that low Vitamin D also makes us more at risk for skin cancer. The fact is that most of us are avoiding the sun or using sunblock at the cost of low Vitamin D in our body. One successful strategy is to judiciously expose your arms and legs to the sun and protect your face with a hat or sunblock.
-- Enjoy 10-15 minutes of sun without sunblock to generate your own Vitamin D (the "sunlight in moderation" approach)
-- Take a Vitamin D-3 supplement of at least 1000 units a day (the "I'm playing it safe" approach)
What makes me more susceptible to inadequate Vitamin D production, resulting in Vitamin D deficiency?
* First, inadequate exposure to sunlight; anyone who is housebound or who covers their arms and legs with sunblock or clothes when in the sun
* Those who get their sun exposure through window glass
* Darker skin pigmentation (African Americans generate up to 80% less vitamin D than caucasions)
* The elderly, with thinning skin
* Those with liver or kidney failure
Therefore, supplementation is usually needed in the above groups of people. It is always safest to check your level and be guided by your physician.
In summary, Vitamin D is an extremely important compound to the human body's skeletal system, immune system, emotional well-being and cardiovascular system, and helps us live longer in ways we are just beginning to understand. Deficiency is at an epidemic level worldwide, and many of us are dying prematurely due to low levels of Vitamin D. Check your 25-hydroxy D level with your local practitioner. If you choose to avoid sun exposure due to the risk of damaging your skin, supplementing with Vitamin D-3 is safe and inexpensive. You'll have a new appreciation for the Light of the sun now.
For more information, the Vitamin D Council provides readable summaries of research, Wikipedia has a good summary, and Dr. Michael Holick has written comprehensive review articles on Vitamin D.
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