Postmenopausal women may be wise to heed some health tips coming from across the Atlantic. The European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS) has released new recommendations on the role of vitamin D in this specific group of people. And since this nutrient is the biggest in the disease-prevention spectrum, let’s take a close look here.
Vitamin-D deficiency is quite common and may affect up to 70% of adults. It is classified as a public health issue, because it can contribute to a long list of diseases. For postmenopausal women, osteoporosis is a key one. Awareness of vitamin D’s importance has risen greatly in the past decade, as it has been the subject of a litany of health breakthroughs. But still, the number of adults who don’t get enough of this nutrient — especially in winter in northern latitudes — is too high.
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The new recommendations are all about preventing osteoporosis. This common disease in postmenopausal women can lead to very dangerous bone fractures. We have known for some time that low levels of vitamin D can contribute to its development. But evidence has been mounting that vitamin-D deficiency is linked with many other medical conditions relevant to aging women. These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, infections, and neurodegenerative disease.
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As most of us are aware, the major natural source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight on the skin. Also, we can get small amounts from animal-based foods such as fatty fish, eggs, and milk. Levels of vitamin D are lower in those with poor sun exposure and in the winter. Plus, obesity, malabsorption syndromes, and certain medications (i.e. anticonvulsants, antiretrovirals) can also lower vitamin D levels.
The recommendations go like this… Get regular sunlight exposure (without sunscreens) for 15 minutes, three to four times a week. Aim for the middle of the day. Vitamin-D supplements are recommended for those who cannot obtain the required quantity through sun exposure and diet. Overall, the recommendations are 600 IU/day for women, increasing to 800 IU/day for women over 71.
Doctors Health Press has long held that aiming for 1,000 IU/day is a very sound nutritional decision. (IU stands for international units.)