The summer sun presents opportunities for naturally supporting our bodily needs for vitamin D. A critical vitamin necessary to maintain serum calcium concentration and support overall musculoskeletal health, vitamin D results from some exposure to the sun. Vitamin D can also be found in foods and in over-the-counter pills. Individuals with deficient vitamin D see impacts on their overall health, including longer ICU stays, longer mechanical ventilation support, higher rates of pneumonia, and higher incidence of organ dysfunction (Burbano Insuasty et al., 2022).
Vitamin D is able to support health in how it acts in the body, more similar to a hormone than what is considered typical of a vitamin, especially in how it supports gene expression (Burbano Insuasty et al., 2022). In the geriatric population, monitoring for vitamin D is critical in managing cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, supporting management of multiple sclerosis, diabetes, depression, and side effects from influenza (Burbano Insuasty et al., 2022). However, the risks of over exposure to the sun must be considered if pursuing vitamin D through UVA sun exposure. In fact, in individuals over 65, the risks for dermatologic, i.e., skin, cancers are a concern (Bisbee et al, 2022).
Skin cancer can result from overexposure and from damaged cells often the result of past sunburns (cdc.gov). Protection is critical and should be pursued through the use of barriers between the sun’s UVA and UVB rays and skin. This protection is critical in aging skin as it often thins and is susceptible to damage and harm. Physical barriers of shading, clothing choices, hats, and sunglasses can protect the skin from exposure (cdc.gov). Sunscreen is essential in times when a physical barrier is not present. Recommendations include a minimal SPF 15 with reapplication every 2 hours. Sunscreen expires after 3 years, so verifying the expiration date is essential in preparation for sun exposure (cdc.gov).
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