Walking in sunshine for healthProtecting yourself from the sun has become second nature.  For a long time now, we have been told to cover up and minimize our time in the sun as it can lead to skin cancer.

However, while it is smart to restrict sun exposure, there are also some benefits to a regular dose of sunshine, particularly as we get older.

Sunshine is the body’s natural and primary source of vitamin D.  Older adults who have been housebound, institutionalized or hospitalized for extended periods face an increased risk of being deficient in vitamin D because of minimal exposure to the sun’s rays.

Compounding this, as we age our skin’s ability to absorb sunlight and produce vitamin D from it also decreases.

With an increased focus and awareness on sun-related skin conditions, many people of all ages now tend to avoid or cover up from the sun’s rays.

And while this has helped prevent increased skin cancer, it has also led to a wide-spectrum deficiency of vitamin D in all age groups in many societies.

Unfortunately, a lack of vitamin D will cause an increasing vulnerability to many age-related diseases. Many of the effects and incidences of these diseases are preventable if people observe healthy lifestyle habits along with getting enough exposure to the sun’s rays.

Chronic avoidance of exposure to sunlight can lead to vitamin D deficiency which in turn will increase a your risk of any or all of the following diseases that are common among the aged population:

Osteoporosis

In the past, the nutrient considered most essential to bone growth was calcium. Current research is showing that even massive calcium intake has no benefit and can even be harmful if not combined with other essential minerals and vitamins, the major ones being vitamin D and the mineral magnesium (Source).

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for building healthy bones and lowering the risk of osteoporosis as we age.

Getting sufficient exposure to sunlight is important for everyone, but especially for women who are already in their 40’s and above. This group have often had their bone density compromised by the natural events of childbearing and lactation.

Additionally, our lifestyle often limits exposure to sunlight. Again, this will lower Vitamin D levels and affect the strengthening of bones as we age.

Cancer

Study after study has shown that vitamin D is crucial for assisting the prevention of more than 16 types of cancer including ovarian, colon, pancreatitis, breast, skin and prostate cancers (Source)

Besides being helpful in preventing specific cancers, vitamin D has also been found to play an important role in slowing down the growth of malignant cells. The role of vitamin D in preventing breast cancer is so crucial that this cancer has been labeled by some experts as “vitamin D deficiency syndrome”.

Diabetes

A three-year study was conducted which had 2,039 individuals as participants with all their blood sugar levels measured at the beginning of the study. The researchers followed up these study participants at six months and then every year for three years.

One of their findings indicated that for every increase in vitamin D levels, as measured by nanograms per milliliter, a person’s risk of diabetes is lowered by as much as 8 per cent. Those study participants who had the highest increase in vitamin D levels (with an average increase of 30 ng/mL) were able to lower their risk of having diabetes by as much as 38 per cent (Source).

Coronary Heart Disease

There is sufficient evidence that having low levels of vitamin D leads to higher risk of coronary heart conditions. A Harvard study showed that people who have low vitamin D levels in their blood were two times more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. Additional studies by other groups support these findings. (Source)

Depression

Sunshine makes you happy!  And the science proves it.

A group of scientists conducted a study in 2006 to ascertain the role of vitamin D in mental health. They had 80 elderly patients as study participants and after evaluating their levels of vitamin D, experts found out that those who had the lowest level of this vitamin were eleven times more at risk of suffering from the symptoms of depression.

Researchers also found out that obtaining as little as 400 IU of vitamin D daily from dietary sources can lower the risk from depression by as much as 20 per cent. This may seem surprising since 400 IU of vitamin D had been considered too low to be able to provide appreciable benefits.

This gave strong supporting evidence that dietary supplementation of vitamin D can be of great benefit when sunlight exposure is limited or not feasible due to immobility.

Conclusion

While it is never recommended to overdose on sun exposure, there is certainly a lot of scientific evidence to indicate its important role in providing Vitamin D for health.

So don’t avoid the sun at all costs.  Make sure to get regular small doses for optimal health at all stages of life.

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