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Older People Need More Sunshine

A study from the University of Warwick in England shows that more time in the sun can help older people avoid diabetes and heart attacks (Diabetes Care, July 2009). They evaluated 3,262 people aged 50-70 years old in Beijing and Shanghai, China, and found that 94 percent were low in vitamin D and 42 percent of those had metabolic syndrome: abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL and high blood sugar levels. This is consistent with world- wide studies that show that as people age their skin atrophies, reducing their ability to make vitamin D from sunlight. Seniors also usually exercise less so they do not go outside as often. Since they are more susceptible to cold, they usually wear more clothing when they do go outside. Inadequate vitamin D increases risk for heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers, arthritis, auto-immune diseases and many other health problems.

A major function of vitamin D is to increase absorption of calcium from food. When vitamin D levels are low, body levels of ionized calcioum drop. This forces the parathyroid glands to increase production of parathyroid hormone that blocks insulin receptors, to raise blood sugar levels markedly and increase production of insulin. High levels of insulin constrict coronary arteries to cause heart attacks.

Vitamin D deficiency occurs when the concentration of D3 (25-hydroxy-vitamin D) is less than 75 nmol/L. If you are deficient, you need to expose skin to more sunlight or take at least 2000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. To address skin cancer concerns, protect the most frequently exposed areas, since it is cumulative life-long exposure to sunlight that increases risk for skin cancer. For most people, this means you should use sunscreen or wear clothing to cover your face, scalp, neck, tops of the ears, forearms and hands whenever you will be in the sun for more than 30 minutes.


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Joint pains
Too much insulin
High blood pressure treatment options


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Which blood pressure number is more important?

The higher number (systolic) measures pressure when your heart contracts, and the lower (diastolic) reading measures the pressure when your heart relaxes. A recent study followed people with high blood pressure to see which people developed heart attacks (Hypertension, May 26, 2009). The authors found that the best predictors for future heart attacks are the systolic (heart contraction) blood pressure and pulse pressure (the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressures). Evidently the higher your blood pressure rises when your heart contracts, the more likely you are to have a heart attack. Normally, the aorta is supposed to widen when the heart contracts to send a large amount of blood to your arteries. Those with the stiffest arteries that do not widen with each heart contraction are the ones most likely to suffer heart attacks.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Why does excess weight increase cancer risk?

Obesity can cause cancer by preventing cells from responding to insulin (Cancer, February 15, 2009; Lancet, February 18, 2008). Before insulin can do its job of driving sugar from your bloodstream into cells, it must first attach to insulin receptors, small hooks on the cells surface. Being overweight means that your fat cells fill with fat. This prevents insulin from attaching to insulin receptors. Since insulin cannot do its job of driving sugar from blood into cells, blood sugar levels rise. This causes the pancreas to release even more insulin. Insulin is a cell growth factor, and excessive insulin stimulation of cells causes cells to grow without control.

Obesity also raises blood levels of other cancer promoters; for example, full fat cells produce estrogen which stimulates breast cancer. Obesity also increases Insulin-Like Growth Factor that stimulates cancer cells to grow. Cancers that are associated with obesity include colon, rectum, breast, ovary, pancreas, inner lining of the uterus, esophagus and gallbladder.


Recipe of the Week:

Shellfish Creole

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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