Vitamin D

6 Weeks to a Younger You: Week 2

August 17, 2011 at 11:45 am , by

Beautiful woman at the beach putting sunscreen on her bodyWelcome to week 2 of our plan! How’d you do with your pedometer and your colorful fruits and veggies last week? I made some progress and I’m feelin’ good. Hope you are too! So what’s on tap for this week?

You need to protect your skin from the sun (to look young and avoid skin cancer). But you need vitamin D for strong bones and maybe even to prevent cancer and heart disease. So how to do you do both? It’s a problem I’ve wrestled with.

My doctor called me a few days ago to tell me that everything on my recent blood test looked good, except one thing: I’m deficient in D. In winter, sure. But in August? Well, I avoid the sun like the plague, thanks to my history of skin cancer. That means wearing sunscreen every day, staying on the shady side of the street—and donning a hat when it’s high noon.

Yes, I take a 1,000 mg D3 supplement almost every day, and I always take it with some nuts or cheese since it’s fat soluble, to improve absorption. But apparently it’s not enough. Supplements just don’t work as well as the sun. My doc suggested I go to 2,000 mg a day—a level that most experts think is safe (although more research needs to be done). And maybe just a few unprotected minutes of sun a day on my arms and legs might be a good idea, too. But just a few!

Aren’t we all? Stress can raise your blood pressure, and so can the junky food you crave when you’re having a bad day. You know that lowering your bp can help your cardiovascular system, but here’s news: healthy blood pressure is good for your memory and brain health! High blood pressure causes no symptoms, so you’ve gotta get checked out. If you can’t see your doc right now, try out one of those drugstore kiosks where you can stick your arm in the cuff. You want to be at 120/80 or lower, and many experts say 115/75 is ideal. If you’re higher, take some deep breaths and take another reading. If it’s still high, make an appointment with your doc.

A great way to reduce stress (and your blood pressure!) is meditation. It can also improve your memory and boost your immune system. And anyone can learn it. All you have to do is sit quietly and focus on your breathing. The trick is carving out and committing to a few quiet minutes a day. I studied transcendental meditation back in the ’70s (hey, it was good enough for the Beatles!). I remember how  tough it was to learn to sit still and let go of all those busy, busy thoughts—without judging myself every time I felt I wasn’t doing it “right.” I’m going to commit to meditating for 20 minutes every day this week if you will. Cheers to a younger you!

Photo copyright goodluz—

Six Ways to Stay Well This Winter

November 3, 2010 at 9:15 am , by

Ah, fall: the time for pumpkin patches, crisp breezes and, with another passing Halloween, the official start of cold and flu season. Before you know it, the sounds of nose-blowing and echoing sneezes will be as ubiquitous as Christmas lights.

The average adult has two to four colds a year, but doesn’t it seem like it always happens at the worst time, like during holiday gatherings? Maybe you can’t completely escape all the bugs floating around, but there are a few things you can do to make this cold and flu season as painless as possible.

  1. Get Your Flu Shot
  2. This year the CDC recommends the flu shot for everyone over 6 months old as the first and best step you can take to prevent the flu. This season’s vaccine protects against three of the most common viruses, including H1N1.

  3. Steer Clear
  4. Because coughing or sneezing can spread germs three feet, try to stay away from anyone who’s showing signs of being sick. While you can’t always avoid tight spaces, such as elevators or public transportation, try not to touch anything, especially your own eyes, nose or mouth, and carry hand sanitizer to use before returning to your home or office.

  5. Stay Home If You’re the Sick One
  6. Lying in bed can be hard when you’ve got a million things to do, but if you’re ailing, think about doing what’s right for your fellow humans: Stay home and give yourself a break. You’ll get well quicker. If you must be out and about, have tissues handy—coughing or sneezing into a tissue and then trashing it is the best way to stop the spread of germs.

  7. Keep Clean
  8. Germs can live anywhere from 24 hours in the air to two days or longer on surfaces like doorknobs and desktops. Your best bet is to be diligent: wash your hands at least five times a day, and avoid touching your face or biting your nails. Be sure to clean those commonly touched areas like phones and light switches, especially if someone at home is sick.

  9. Exercise, No Excuses!
  10. Don’t let the cold discourage you from getting your exercise. If you can’t go for a walk, pop in a fitness DVD. People who remained physically active throughout the fall and winter spent fewer days sick, according to a recent study. Exercise increases the amount of immune cells circulating in your body, but only for a few hours afterward. Make sure you get into a routine to maximize the effects.

  11. Get Your Vitamin D
  12. Researchers are starting to think vitamin D, which we get from the sun, may have something to do with why we get sick when it gets colder and we head inside. One recent study found that people with high levels of vitamin D were three times less likely to catch a respiratory infection. If you can’t get a few minutes of sun each day, take a D3 supplement or try getting more D from dairy foods or fish.

Photo via Flickr by ArlingtonVa

My Place in the Sun

July 14, 2010 at 5:31 pm , by

EmotiSun with Sunglasses - 3D renderI have such a love-hate relationship with the sun. It has warmed me, helped me feel relaxed and sexy, and caused my petunias to proliferate so fast you can almost hear them grow. On the other hand, it has burned me, caused the hostas on my terrace to dry and curl up like crepe paper, and sprinkled unwanted brown spots across my white Scottish-Swedish skin. It has also given me skin cancer. Six times, to be precise, starting when I was only in my 20s.

I avoid the sun now—and I miss it. I’m envious when I see lithe, tanned young girls cavorting on the beach while I stroll in my hat, sunglasses, long sleeves and SPF 100. And I worry that I’m not getting enough vitamin D. Having low levels of this vitamin (well, actually, it’s a hormone), has been linked to a higher risk of cancer, vascular disease, infectious illnesses, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, dementia, Parkinson’s and even obesity, according to studies. And we don’t know if supplements really do the trick—or what the appropriate dose is. Read more