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Winter Warning for Older Folks

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Winter Warning for Older Folks

December 18
17:27 2017

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There is no doubt that winter is here. At the time of this writing, it is 23 degrees outside at my house with a wind chill ranging from 14 to 18 degrees. We had a dusting of snow this morning and since I spent most of my life in the Arizona desert, this is cold.

During the warmer parts of the year, I enjoy gardening. I don’t have a large yard, but in my back yard, I have three apple trees, two cherry trees and one peach tree, and 2 honeyberry bushes (planning on putting in 2 more this next spring). I also have about 18 grape vines on trellis. There are four 1 foot by 10 foot raised beds for melons (2 watermelon and 2 cantaloupe). There 3, 1 foot by 10 foot raised beds for bush cucumbers. There is a 4 foot by 12 foot raised bed for tomatoes, 2, 4 foot by 8 foot raised beds for beans. There are also a dozen large tubs for carrots, 6, 1 foot by 1 foot raised beds for radishes. I’m in the process of putting in a new 3 foot by 12 foot raised bed for what I’m not sure yet.

I also have 108 named varieties of daylilies in the front, both sides and back of the house, along with about 30 unnamed daylilies.

Yes, I spend a lot of time outside in the sun, but with winter, my time outside is greatly reduced and I don’t get nearly as much sunlight as I do the rest of the year and this is a health concern I have to be aware of and so do you.

Why?

Because as we age, men and women become more susceptible to loss of bone mass and loss of bone density and the sun does play more of a role in healthy bones than you may realize and that all centers around vitamin D.

One of the many roles of vitamin D is helping the body absorb and use calcium, which is important for maintaining bone health as well helping to keep muscles healthy and prevent muscle cramps. Many people may not know that vitamin D also plays a role in heart, lung and brain health as well and it also helps boost your immune system.

When the UV rays of sunlight (yeah, the bad UV rays that can cause skin cancer) hit the skin, it triggers the body to produce natural vitamin D. But as winter comes on and we spend far less time in the sun, it’s quite common for many people, especially older people, to develop a vitamin D deficiency, which in turn, can be quite damaging to your overall health, especially your bones.

In the summer when you are out in the sunlight, if you use a sunscreen lotion that blocks out harmful UV rays, you need to realize that it is also interfering with your body’s production of vitamin D. It’s important to protect your skin from cancer, but you also need to be aware of the need for vitamin D.

A lack of vitamin D has also been linked to increased risk of some cancers, developing asthma, types & 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.

In addition to a lack of sun, some illnesses can also cause a deficiency of vitamin D. As we age, our skin changes and produces less vitamin D as in our younger days. The darker a person’s skin, the less vitamin D it produces in the sunlight.

But don’t over dose yourself with vitamin D as that an also cause health issues. So how much is recommended:

  • Age 0 to 1 year: 400 to 1,000 International Units (IU) daily
  • Age 1 to 18 years: 600 to 1,000 IU daily
  • All adults over age 18: 1,500 to 2,000 IU daily
  • Pregnant or nursing women under age 18: 600 to 1,000 IU daily
  • Pregnant or nursing women over age 18: 1,500 to 2,000 IU daily

There are a variety of vitamin Ds on the market, but it’s been highly recommended to me that vitamin D3 is the best form as it is more efficient in helping the body absorb and utilize calcium. Some calcium supplement come with vitamin D3 and this was also recommended to me.

If you’re not taking a vitamin D supplement, you need to consider doing so, especially as we age and winter drives us inside or causes us to bundle up before going outside.

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