Whither Preventative Care: Sunlight and Osteoporosis

By | July 17, 2011

Half of you wants a nice healthy and tan and half of you is afraid.

Judging from the last couple of blogs, some of you are probably wondering if I am a nihilist or some other type of depressive character. Let me assure you that nothing could be further form the truth and to illustrate this point I would like to discuss an area where preventative care may be very beneficial and cost effective.

Estimates are that over one third of Americans over the age of 60 are vitamin D deficient and have significant osteoporosis. Untreated osteoporosis can lead to vertebral compression fractures of the spine as well as long bone fractures. These fractures are a major cause of morbidity and mortality among the elderly. Untreated vertebral compression fractures are a significant cause of deformity, kyphosis, scoliosis, chronic pain and disability. The treatment, increased exposure to regular sunlight is simple, cheap, pleasant and effective, yet underutilized.

Why is this so. I would suggest that there is a large industry, which has grown up around solar avoidance, sunglasses, sunscreens and protective clothing to limit your exposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation, even though this is exactly the type of light/radiation that our bodies need. This industry spends money every year sponsoring research into the harmful effects of UV exposure and convincing you that skin cancer is a major health risk. Until a comparable industry grows up to market products, support research and promote the benefits of solar exposure, I am afraid that most Americans will remain osteoporotic heliophobes.


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