Vitamin D

I was amazed to read recently that vitamin D deficiency is on the increase. Rickets, to use it’s medical name when presenting in children, was primarily a Victorian disease associated with poor diet. It was considered pretty much wiped out among 1st and 2nd world countries where diet is, or at least should be, adequate to prevent it but now the numbers being diagnosed are increasing, as reported by the BBC. It has been more commonly associated with women who have had multiple pregnancies and breast-fed whilst not achieving adequate daily intake. They deplete their own stores of vitamin D, putting them at risk of the adult version of the disease called osteomalacia, but also do not supply their breast-fed children with sufficient stores at a time when bone is being formed.

Vitamin D deficiency causes poor bone formation which in children causes soft bones that easily become deformed. In adults, vitamin D deficiency is classified as osteomalacia and results in an increased fracture rate. It arises for a number of reasons:

1. Poor diet. Vitamin D is found in the skin of oily fish and fish oils. It is also present in small amounts in some beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.

2. Direct sunlight. It’s primary source is from direct sunlight. It is absorbed through the skin and metabolised into a usable form by firstly the liver and secondly the kidneys.

3. Supplementation. Many calcium supplements also contain vitamin D and it is also added to other dietary products to fortify them. This is common with many cereals and some milk products, both specifically targeted to children.

1. Breast-fed babies may be at risk depending upon the mother’s vitamin D stores. A breast-feeding mother that has a good intake of vitamin D is less likely to have a child develop rickets.

2. The elderly will be at risk because as we age, liver and kidney function becomes reduced so the ability to convert vitamin D into it’s usable form is affected.

3. Dark skinned people are believed to be at a slightly higher risk because the higher levels of melanin which causes their skin to be darkened reduces the level of vitamin D absorbed. It is unclear whether this is significant as there are no higher fracture rates in those from African-American ancestry.

4. Those with limited contact with direct sunlight will also be at risk. We are all advised to cover up to protect ourselves against the sun to prevent skin cancer but if taken to extreme, it could have a detrimental effect on our health. The other option is to use a high spf sunscreen but it is unclear whether this has an effect on how the skin absorbs vitamin D. Many people also cover their skin for religious purposes or may have limited access to direct sunlight for other reasons, such as shift/night workers. If this is prolonged, they are at risk of becoming deficient.

5. People who have problems absorbing fat are at risk because vitamin D is fat-soluble. A degree of fat is required for the body to absorb it so those who are unable to absorb fat in turn cannot absorb vitamin D.

6. People that are obese, ie with a body mass index >30, tend to have low levels of the active form of vitamin D in their blood. This is due to the high levels of fat below the surface of the skin which affects how it is absorbed. People who have had gastric bypass are also at risk as the are when it is absorbed is bypassed and over a period of time, they cannot compensate.

The potential is that quite a large percentage of the population could be at risk of developing vitamin D deficiency and not be aware of it because they consider themselves to be healthy.

Most supplements that can be purchased without a prescription tend to be calcium with added vitamin D, such as Forever calcium. This product has the added benefit of containing magnesium which is required to aid absorption.

If you fall into one of these categories, or you think you are at risk, you should consider increasing your daily intake of vitamin D. The easiest way is by taking a  supplement, such as Forever calcium, because the damage could have started as early as your teenage years.

Surprising Effects of Prescription Sleeping Pills

Some people are just dying for a good night’s sleep. This may make you reach for a prescription sleeping pill, but is that the best thing for you? Yes, an entire night’s sleep seems great, but is the surprising effects of the prescription sleeping pills really worth it? If you rely on them, you may be on your way to premature death. No one wants that. Here are some surprising side effects of sleeping pills that I bet your doctor or pharmacist will not tell you.

Hundreds of people who have taken prescription sleeping pills have claimed that the pills make them do things that they have no recollection of doing. If you do an internet search about sleeping pills, you will find lots of testimonies about some people who have taken their sleeping pill, gotten into their cars, and had an accident without even knowing it. One woman says that she took Ambien (a popular prescription sleeping pill) at a friend’s house, took a shower, and then watched some TV and fell asleep. She then apparently got into the car and crashed into an electrical pole. She says that she woke up in the hospital with no recollection of even falling asleep. Although it is uncommon, sleep driving seems to be awfully lethal and may lead to your premature death.

Sleeping Pills – a Cancer Risk?

Another surprising effect is that prescription sleeping pills may increase your risk for getting cancer. Researchers have documented a thirty five percent increased risk of cancer among people taking prescription sleeping pills compared to a non-prescription taking group. Users are not being notified of these risks. Cigarettes and tobacco products are required to have the risks printed on the label, but prescription sleeping pills are allowed to be sold with no label and no warning signs. The risks need to be placed on the drug’s label.

Don’t Take the Chance
There are also many other risks associated with sleeping pills. If you do a simple internet search, you will see that your chances of asthma, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and reflux may also be caused by prescription sleeping pills. All of these things can add to a premature death.

If you need a good nights sleep, try some all natural suggestions first before you reach for the sleeping pills. Cutting your life short definitely isn’t worth it nor is the risk of the many surprising side effects of sleeping pills.

Summer Health Risks: Fun in the Sun or Danger Alert?

When summer comes, it is easy to think of carefree days, family picnics, vacations, and outdoor fun; but summer health risks are everywhere, waiting to create some not so pleasant memories of late night trips to the emergency room.

With a little preparation and a lot of common sense, summer can be safe and worry free.

Health Risks from the Sun

To begin, let’s consider the summer health risk common to all of us and the various problems it can cause: Of course I’m talking about THE SUN. People of all ages and all health conditions can be at risk for the following:Dehydration can occur when more water is exiting the cells than is entering.

This occurs when excessive exercise and/or heat exposure are combined with insufficient fluid intake. Dizziness, thirst, weakness, and decreased urination are the symptoms of dehydration. Plain water, and resting away from the heat, is the best treatment. Limit soft drinks and alcohol, and watch for signs of progressing heat illness.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is depleted of water or salt; in water depletion, there is excessive thirst, weakness, headache, dehydration, and dizziness that can lead to fainting. Salt depletion is characterized by weakness, cramping, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, and profuse sweating. Treatment is rest in a cool place, preferably air conditioning. Beverages should be given, but no soft drinks or alcohol. A cool bath or shower is good, but no ice bath! Use fans and cool towels; if there is not relive in 30 minutes, watch for signs of heat stroke.

Heat stroke happens when the body temperature reaches 105 degrees or higher. Heat stroke is one of the most dangerous of the summer health risks. There can be difficulty breathing, profuse sweating or no sweating at all, confusion or restlessness and anxiety, red hot skin, nausea and vomiting, and a fast heart rate. Call 911 right away, and get the individual to a cool place, encouraging him to sit up and take fluids and loosen or remove clothing. Apply ice packs to the neck, armpits, and groin, where major blood vessels are. Do not give the victim an ice bath, or aspirin or acetaminophen. Rehydrate with 32 to 64 ounces of fluids over 2 hours, and get that body temperature down!

Picnic Health Risks

Other summer health risks happen as picnic season approaches; eating outdoors encourages many unwelcome guests, such as ants, flies, and worst of all, stinging bees! Closing up trash containers and covering food will discourage the insects. Most stores sell citronella and other effective deterrents. Knowing if anyone present is allergic at your picnic can save a life if a sting occurs’ many people carry an epi-pen in case of emergency. Food poisoning is also an outdoor eating risk. Remember to keep cold food cold and hot food hot, and put away leftovers as soon as possible.

Many Summer Health Risks

The large number of people flocking to the beaches in the summer greatly increases the chances of sunburn; adequate sunscreen will prevent the danger of sun poisoning, skin blistering, or at worst, skin cancer. Drowning is also a summer health risk, and children should always use the buddy system when swimming in a pool or a lake; but there is not substitute for an alert adult supervising and swimming with the kids.

Fireworks, boating accidents, an increase in auto accidents and sports injuries are all part of summer fun, but the incidents can be greatly reduced if common sense is used, and the dangerous activities are left in the hands of the professionals. Water safety and defensive driving courses are offered in most communities; also, most sports have safety equipment. Helmets for baseball and cycling do prevent head injury, and knee and elbow pads protect bones and joings while playing. Spending on safety equipment now saves the medical bills later.

Summer health risks can be avoided, if thoughtful preparation goes into your summer fun plans, so go have fun, and be safe!