Hello sunshine. Hello vitamin D
At long last we have sun – and finally a predicted forecast filled with blue skies and mild weather – perfect for the upcoming Bank Holiday! It has certainly been an incessant winter. Speaking of sunny days, we thought it would be good to remind everyone of the importance of sunshine for our overall health – and in particular our vitamin D levels.
How we get vitamin D
Skin exposure to the sun is just one way we get vitamin D – though in the UK, this is only applicable from about early April to the end of September according to the NHS. Of course, this doesn’t mean spending all day in the sun as too much exposure can be harmful. Cancer Research UK provides useful advice on the recommended amount of time to spend in the sun and points out that it varies depending on several factors like ‘skin type, time of day, time of year and where you are in the world’. They also provide a useful graphic which we have reattached below.
For older people, it can be even more difficult to get enough vitamin D as they may have less frequent exposure to sunlight, a decreased capacity to synthesize and convert vitamin D to its most active form and/or health conditions which affect it’s levels.
Supplements can also provide sources of Vitamin D and, for people who are not often exposed to the sun, The Department of Health recommends taking a daily supplement as mentioned here. Having said that, taking too much vitamin D can be harmful so it’s worth checking with a GP if there is any doubt and particularly for the elderly, for those on other medications/supplements or for those with chronic conditions.
Good food can help to supplement vitamin D levels as well. The main source of vitamin D in foods can be found in products that have been fortified to include the vitamin, such as milk and other dairy products. Vitamin D is only found naturally in significant levels in a few foods, including fatty fish, cod liver oil and eggs.
What vitamin D does
According to information found on the NHS website, vitamin D is essential for bone, teeth and muscle health by helping to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. It can also help fight diseases such as multiple sclerosis and heart disease; assist in warding off depression and help reduce your likelihood of developing the flu.
There aren’t any visual signs of vitamin D deficiency but if levels get low enough, there is a risk of it leading to weaker bones as well as deformities such as rickets in children and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
How to get your vitamin D levels tested
If you are in one of the risk groups below, you should be able to get your vitamin D levels checked on the NHS.
- small children under the age of 5
- elderly people aged 65 years and over
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
- people with darker skin and
- people with low or no exposure to the sun.
If you fall outside this category, you can order a do-it-yourself kit here.
Being good to your bones and your overall health by getting a little bit of sunshine regularly and by eating a healthy diet. For those who have difficulty in getting out or getting and prepping healthy food, The Private Care Company is here to help.
All content in this blog is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.