Vitamin D Cuts Heart Disease, Diabetes Risk in Older People

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Researchers at the University of Warwick say older people can reduce risk of heart disease and diabetes by spending more time outside in the sunshine. Lifestyle changes and increased age lead to vitamin D deficiency, in turn leading to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes. The scientists suggest that older people spend less time outdoors in the sun, and wear protective clothing outdoors, putting them more at risk for heart disease and diabetes from vitamin D deficiency.

Dr Oscar Franco at Warwick Medical School and colleagues studied 3,262 Chinese people, aged 50-70, finding that 94 percent had vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency – 42.3 percent had metabolic syndrome, indicating an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. Getting enough Vitamin D from sunshine can cut those risks.

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The findings suggest that spending even more time in the sunshine soaking up vitamin D when we get older might be important. Dr. Franco says, “As we get older our skin is less efficient at forming vitamin D and our diet may also become less varied, with a lower natural vitamin D content. Most importantly, however, the dermal production of vitamin D following a standard exposure to UVB light decreases with age because of atrophic skin changes. When we are older we may need to spend more time outdoors to stimulate the same levels of vitamin D we had when we were younger.”

The study showed a close association between lack of vitamin D from less time spent outdoor in the sun, evidenced by the high rate of metabolic syndrome found in the study group.

Natural aging depletes the body of vitamin D. Exposure to sunshine stimulates vitamin D production in the skin. Older people are especially at risk for vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency, in turn increasing heart disease and diabetes risk. Older people may need to spend more time outdoors in the sunshine to reduce risk of metabolic syndrome.

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