Seniors and Vitamin D, the “Sunlight Vitamin” by Sharon Fillyaw

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As a child, you may remember your parents or even teachers, stressing the importance of playing outside, because the sun was “good for you” – well it seems they were correct!

Vitamin D is synthesized, or irradiated, on the skin by direct UVB (ultraviolet B) sunlight. Many New Englanders, in particular people of color (WebMD/2015), have low concentrations of the vitamin from a lack of adequate sunlight. This occurs for a variety of reasons including; geographically higher latitude sunrays do not emit sufficient UVB rays; during the winter it tends to be very dark and people wear more clothing and stay indoors. Of course there is the argument against prolonged UV exposure, because it can increase one’s risk of skin cancer and depending on your personal medical and family history, prolonged exposure to the sun may not be a feasible option.
All Seniors should have a strategy for supplementing Vitamin D. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it provides many physiological benefits: decreasing the incidence of and mitigating the effects of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, bone loss, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol, multiple sclerosis, gum disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and various other ailments (MedLine Plus/NIH Dec 2014) Also, according to a recent groundbreaking study by Dr. Bruce Ames, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and Post Doc Rhonda H. Patrick , Vitamin D has now been linked to genome expression which affects the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which affects mood and are the first to explain the role of low Vitamin D levels and autism. (Ames, B.A. & Patrick R.H. Vit. D hormone regulates serotonin synthesis FASEB Jrnl 2014).
This development will help scientists further study and understand the vast regulatory role Vitamin D plays in neurodevelopment and its link to mental illness.
Vitamin D is important but, unfortunately, symptoms of low Vitamin D levels are vague and easy to miss, some may feel fatigue, pain in the bones or general weakness, but some individuals feel nothing at all!
Sources of Vitamin D are also not entirely plentiful – you must eat very specific foods such as:
Salmon, Tuna and Mackerel
Vitamin D is present in smaller amounts in:
Cheese, Egg Yolks and Liver
Vitamin D fortified foods include;
Milk, Orange Juice, Some Cereals
There has been some controversy in scientific research concerning whether Vitamin D actually reduces the number of falls in seniors. Vitamin D, which is stored in your fat (adipose) cells is in part, used for the regulation of calcium and phosphorous, important minerals in bone composition and structure. In light of this, however, the NIH has indicated that a direct correlation between a reduction in falls and Vitamin D has NOT yet been established.
The Mayo Clinic recommends a daily dosage of 600 I.U.’s(international units) for Seniors 65 – 71 and 800 I.U.’s for those 71 and over (mayoclinic.org/2010), however, circumstances vary widely and you should check with your physician; some medications interact with Vitamin D, also, high levels may be contraindicated for you and cause harm. Your doctor can check your Vitamin D levels at your annual checkup with a simple blood test, it’s easy and proactive for your general health.
Be sure to watch Sharon’s Full Body and Fitness Workout, on MATV, Malden; CATV, Cambridge; BATV , Brookline; BNN, Boston and now, Wellesley!; Wellesley Media Corp – check respective websites for programming times and schedules.
Also, Sharon’s Senior Workout Video is now available, call MATV at 781-321-6400 for details.
Remember, take care of yourself and…
Stay Healthy!!

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