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Vitamin D: Your Prevention Ally

Vitamin D and Menopause

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Updated June 12, 2014

Vitamin D: Your Prevention Ally

Sunshine and Supplements are the Main Sources of Vitamin D

The Brant Group/Getty Images

If you are a woman in your 30s, 40s or 50s, it’s time to think about Vitamin D. This little wonder of a vitamin plays a central role in many body processes and is on the A-list for menopausal women. Studies have linked it to preventing heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer and weight gain. If that seems like a lot of prevention in one little vitamin, it is. The problem, though, is that as many as half of adults are deficient in vitamin D and are therefore not benefiting from it.

Consider Vitamin D To Prevent These Conditions

It’s important to be aware of your intake of vitamin D as you approach menopause, because research is discovering its role in the prevention of many diseases and conditions that are more common as you age. You may be aware of vitamin D as a helper for absorbing calcium and building bones, but it is involved in many other processes that protect you from disease and health problems.

Here are a few of the conditions that vitamin D can help treat or prevent:

  • Osteoporosis.
    Since vitamin D is critical for your body to be able to use calcium and build bone properly, women who are over 40 or who have risk factors for osteoporosis should be sure to get adequate amounts of vitamin D. The combination of calcium and vitamin D are a frontline prevention and treatment for maintaining bone strength.

  • Certain Cancers.
    Many studies have proven an association between Vitamin D and the prevention of colon, prostate and breast cancers. It seems to be particularly effective in helping to prevent colon cancer, but it probably plays a role in slowing down malignant cell growth for other systems as well. The irony is that in trying to prevent skin cancers, we have all become excellent users of sun block. While this does help reduce skin cancer risk, it also blocks out that helpful vitamin D.

  • Depression.
    Vitamin D has been shown to have a positive effect on low mood and cognitive performance. Since mood symptoms are common in the menopause years, anything that minimizes your mood troubles is worth your attention. If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and notice your mood being low during the winter season, you may want to boost your vitamin D intake during those darker months.

  • Diabetes.
    Adequate levels of vitamin D seem to have a strong association with your body’s ability to use insulin. Many studies have been done to determine its exact role. Not only does it make your use of insulin more effective, but it seems to prevent and/or minimize types 1 and 2 diabetes. In one study, women who took 1,200 mg per day of calcium along with 800 IU of vitamin D had a 33% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

  • Cardiovascular Disease.
    When estrogen starts to decline, women begin to have the same risks for heart disease that men do. Vitamin D plays a role in the prevention of heart disease, but the research is mixed on its value. While vitamin D deficiency does seem to be associated with cardiovascular disease, it’s not clear why this is so. Some studies have failed to connect supplementing with vitamin D to the improvement of cardiovascular risks. Other studies have suggested that calcium actually raises the risk of heart disease, but whether vitamin D would affect that risk is not clear.

    If you are considering taking vitamin D, the best advice to reduce your risk of heart disease is to talk to your doctor about it and weigh it against your other risk factors and health concerns.

  • Hypertension.
    Being vitamin D deficient may take a toll on your heart and blood vessels. Since high blood pressure is a symptom that your cardiovascular system is at risk, anything that lowers that risk is protective for your heart. Studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin D and calcium can lower blood pressure readings for people with hypertension.

  • Obesity.
    For some reason, women who are overweight have low levels of vitamin D. It’s not known whether the low levels contribute to obesity or whether obesity lowers the levels, but the association exists. Since research links calcium and vitamin D supplements with preventing weight gain for women, this is an excellent excuse to pay attention to your intake of both vitamin D and calcium as you get into the menopausal years. Anything that makes it easier to keep the weight off pays dividends in your overall health.

  • Others.
    Vitamin D has been studied for its role in treating and preventing other conditions, such as muscle weakness, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, autoimmune disease and chronic pain. We are just beginning to understand how widespread its actions are and how integral it is in healthy body functioning.

As you get into your midlife, prevention becomes your best defense against age-related health conditions. Vitamin D is a central player in helping you stay strong, healthy and positive.

Sources:

Holick, MF, Vitamin D: Importance in the prevention of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 79, No. 3, 362-371, Mar 2004. Retrieved 12 May 2008.

National Institutes of health, Office of Dietary Supplements, Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Retrieved 12 May 2008.

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