Take Charge of Your Health for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Most of us know someone personally that is fighting or coping with the realities of breast cancer or has in the past.   Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a great time to be even more diligent about taking charge of your own health to help prevent breast cancer for yourself and loved ones.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Have you had your mammogram yet this year?

Aside from making good decisions every day about diet, exercise, not smoking and moderating your alcohol consumption, the single best thing you can do for your health is go to your doctor for an annual physical and get regular health screenings. For a list of the screenings you need, click here if you are a man and here if you are a woman.

Every October is a good reminder about breast cancer awareness. Women are you getting your annual breast exam and a mammogram if recommended by your ob/gyn? You can lower your modifiable risk factors for breast cancer by:

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight. Your risk of breast cancer and breast cancer reoccurrence is higher if you are overweight or obese, particularly after menopause.
     
  2. Staying active. Women are not physical active may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer. And of course, physical activity will help keep excess weight off.
     
  3. Cutting your alcohol intake. Though you may have seen reports that alcohol might actually have some health benefits, research shows that the more alcohol a woman drinks the higher her risk of breast cancer.

Vitamin D Deficiency May be a Risk Factor

In addition to these risk factors, scientists are also studying a number of other potential risk factors possibly related to breast cancer. In particular, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a worse prognosis in at least one study in breast cancer patients. And though the data is conflicting and not clear right now, scientists agree that vitamin D deficiency should be corrected for a number of health reasons.

For more information about breast cancer awareness and what you can do to participate, check out the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website.

References:

Oncologist 2011; 16(9): 1215–1227.




Why You May Still Need a Vitamin D Supplement in Summer

Even though it’s summer, you may still need to take an additional vitamin D supplement.  Why?

The weather is warm, sun is shining and you’re enjoying every minute of the great outdoors this season. But, just because the days are longer and sun is brighter this doesn’t mean you should ditch your vitamin D supplement.  Sure, our skin can make vitamin D upon exposure to sunlight; however, the sun’s rays alone may not be enough for many people.

Factors which affect Vitamin D production

Despite exposure to the sun’s rays, several factors impair our body’s production of vitamin D including:

  • Darker skin color,
  • Obesity and
  • Sunscreen use (sunscreen blocks UV rays that are needed to make vitamin D)
  • Malabsorption
  • Age (production decreases as we age)

In addition, some people’s vitamin D levels may have dropped so low during winter months that summertime sunlight alone won’t do enough to bring their vitamin D level to within normal limits.

Deficiency is more common than you think!

More than 75 percent of Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D according to the Archives of Internal Medicine. Be sure you do not fall into this category. Get your vitamin D levels checked regularly if you are at risk for deficiency or insufficiency and be diligent about taking a prescription dose of vitamin D or supplemental dose if your doctor prescribed one. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to weak and misshaped bones and impair overall health.

Vitamin D is also very important for the proper absorption of Calcium.  Never take a calcium supplement alone that does not also contain vitamin D.




Vitamin D Key Nutrient For Vegetarians

As a vegetarian you take health seriously. But, are you getting enough of the key nutrients that vegetarians may fall short on? There are many but Vitamin D is a very important one and many people, especially vegetarians, fall short of their daily needed intake.

Vitamin D is made by the body upon exposure to UV rays from the sun. However, if you wear sunscreen, and by all means you should unless you don’t mind skin damage, wrinkling and sunburns, your body won’t get as much UV light as it needs to process vitamin D. Skin color (melanin protects skin from UV light), smog, cloud cover, season and age (elderly individuals do not manufacture vitamin D as well as younger adults and kids) also affect this process.

Other sources of vitamin D include fortified milk, some yogurts (also fortified), salmon, mackerel, tuna fish, and fortified orange juice, soy, almond and rice milk. But, here’s the kicker, though you can get vitamin D from fortified dairy alternatives, these beverages are fortified with a vegetarian form of vitamin D, vitamin D2. And, studies indicate that the vegan-friendly vitamin D2 does not raise the body’s stores of vitamin D nearly as well as vitamin D3 does.  Plus, you would have to drink 10 glasses of fortified milk per day to get the minimum of 1000 IU of vitamin d that your body needs.  That’s a lot of milk to drink!

Vitamin D Supplements
A very easy way to get enough vitamin D3 each day is by taking a vitamin D3 supplement of at least 1000 IU.  Many experts are even recommending 2000 IU, depending on your risk levels and your other sources.  Try taking a liquid vitamin D3 supplement for fast absorption and ease of swallowing. It works great for kids too and older adults that have difficulty swallowing pills.