Monday, June 23, 2008

Alaska is Trying to Kill Me

Vitamin D molecule

The incidence of heart attacks increase 25% during the winter; I was statistically appropriate and had a heart attack in November.

One of the reasons for the increase in heart attacks during winter months is that sunshine deprivation prevents the metabolism of Vitamin D; recent research suggests that low levels of Vitamin D doubles the risk of a heart attack.

The American Journal of Public Health claims that anyone living north of 37 degrees -- (the latitude of Richard, Virginia) cannot get enough Vitamin D in winter no matter how long they are outside.

(This may explain some north-south disease rates: the higher the latitude, the higher the incidence of breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer, multiple schlerosis and other immune diseases.)

Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin; vitamins cannot be manufactured by the body. It is a hormone, that is manufactured in the skin after exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. It is essential for maintaining normal calcium metabolism.

The radiation that converts Vitamin D in the skin is the same wavelength that causes sunburn; sunscreen lotion prevents the conversion of the ultra-violet light. Additionally, the angle of the sun makes a substantial difference in how much Vitamin D is converted. (Glass, fog, and clouds also block the UV light.)

The Harvard Health Letter suggests getting 1000 units of Vitamin D a day; the National Academy of Sciences maintains that 2000 IU daily is the upper tolerable limit; however, some physicians are recommending as much as 10,000 a day.

So how does one compensate for not getting enough Vitamin D? It is not in most foods, although cold-water fish such as salmon have some. (Four ounces of salmon would meet the minimal daily requirements for Vitamin D.) One can only eat so much salmon, however. Supplements are another option.

The most appealing solution for problems with Vitamin D deficiency from living in Alaska is to move to Hawaii.


Vitamin D: Office of Dietary Supplements

Harvard Health Letter

Mayo Clinic

Vitamin D and Breast Cancer
Summaries of how Vitamin D works

The Role of Vitamin D in Cancer Prevention
Image Credit