The Important Vitamin You’re Probably Lacking


The Important Vitamin You’re Probably Lacking
from HealthyWomen’s e-newsletter, HealthyWomen Take 10

On the seemingly ever-changing list of what vitamins and minerals we ought to be taking—and in what amounts—vitamin D has long been a solid, boring standard. For years, we were told that we’d have our needs covered if we drank fortified milk, got a few minutes of daily sun exposure (which delivers the vitamin directly to us through our skin), or took calcium or multivitamin supplements containing additional amounts of vitamin D.

That accepted wisdom is no longer. Recent research shows that many people living in the United States and around the world are getting insufficient levels of vitamin D, putting them at risk for health problems. If you spend a lot of time indoors at work or home, have dark skin, are older or severely overweight or have certain medical conditions, you’re more likely to be vitamin D deficient. Even if you spend a lot of time outdoors but wisely cover up with sunscreen or sunblock, you also keep the vitamin D in sunlight from reaching your skin and being stored by your body. 

Getting insufficient vitamin D has long been known to contribute to lower bone density, osteoporosis and bone fractures. (Adding vitamin D to calcium supplements helps the body better absorb the calcium it needs.) Now, having low levels of vitamin D has also been linked to cardiovascular risk and death, several cancers (including breast cancer in younger women), liver disease, multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases, diabetes, periodontal disease and falls (caused by weakened muscles).

Although a handful of foods contain vitamin D, it’s nearly impossible to eat the amount of the nutrient you need. Sun exposure can be hard to control safely and effectiveness varies. Taking vitamin D in supplement form is the most reliable way to get what you need.

Many experts now believe that the level of daily vitamin D once thought necessary for good health (400 IU for adults) was set too low. Talk with your health care provider about your specific needs and whether you should have your vitamin D level checked by a simple blood test.

In the United States, the Institute of Medicine is reviewing whether the daily vitamin D amount for adults should be raised, but the American Academy of Pediatrics has already recommended that levels for infants, children and adolescents be raised to 400 IU. Many researchers and physicians now contend that 1,000 IU should be the adult level. Don’t take more than that without getting a doctor’s advice.

For more on bone and joint health, visit:


Bischoff-Ferrari H. “Vitamin D: What is an Adequate Vitamin D Level and How Much Supplementation is Necessary?” Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology. 2009;23(6):789-795.

National Osteoporosis Foundation. “Vitamin D and Bone Health.” Accessed December 17, 2009.

Lee JH, O’Keefe JH, Bell D, et al. “Vitamin D Deficiency an Important, Common, and Easily Treatable Cardiovascular Risk Factor?” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2008;52(24):1949-1956.

Knight JA, Wong J, Blackmore KM, et al. “Vitamin D Association with Estradiol and Progesterone in Young Women.” Cancer Causes & Control. 2009; [epub ahead of print].

Arteh J, Narra S, Nair S. “Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency in Chronic Liver Disease.” Digestive Diseases & Sciences. 2009; [epub ahead of print].

Kulie T, Groff A, Redmer J, et al. “Vitamin D: An Evidence-Based Review.” Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2009;22(6):698-706.

Mascitelli L, Pezzetta F, Goldstein MR. “Menopause, Vitamin D, and Oral Health.” Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2009;76(11):629.

Landers, Susan J. “IOM Studies Boost in Vitamin D Requirements.” American Medical News. April 20, 2009.

© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at:


Celebrate National Wear Red Day® this February with The Heart Truth®!


Although significant progress has been made in increasing awareness among women that heart disease is their #1 killer (from 34 percent in 2000 to 69 percent in 2009) most fail to make the connection between its risk factors and their personal risk of developing heart disease. In fact, this disease kills one out of every four American women. Join The Heart Truth campaign on Friday, February 5th—National Wear Red Day—to help spread the message that “Heart Disease Doesn’t Care What You Wear, It’s the #1 Killer of Women.®”

The Heart Truth created and introduced the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002 to deliver an urgent wake-up call to American women. The Red Dress® reminds women of the need to protect their heart health, and inspires them to take action. While heart disease risk begins to rise in middle age, heart disease develops over time and can start at a young age, even in the teen years. It’s never too early, or too late, to take action to prevent and control the risk factors for heart disease.

The Heart Truth is building awareness of women’s heart disease and empowering women to reduce and prevent their risk. It is reaching women with important heart health messages in community settings through a diverse network of national and grassroots partner organizations. The Heart Truth campaign is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in partnership with The Office on Women’s Health (OWH) and other groups committed to the health and well-being of women.

 The Red Dress® was created and introduced by The Heart Truth as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002 to deliver an urgent wake-up call to American women. The Red Dress reminds women of the need to protect their heart health and inspires them to take action. Each February since its launch, the Red Dress symbol has come to life on the runway with the support of the fashion industry and celebrity models at the Red Dress Collection Fashion Show.

The Red Dress Collection 2010 is an evening affair to celebrate the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness. More than 20 of today’s hottest celebrities will walk the runway in Red Dresses created by America’s top designers for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This year’s Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection 2010 Fashion Show will take place on Thursday February 11, 2010 in Bryant Park in New York City.

Showing this season in the Tent, Promenade, Salon and off-site are: BCBGMAXAZRIA, Richard Chai, Duckie Brown, Toni Maticevski, Ports 1961, Anne Bowen, La Perla, Farah Angsana, The Heart Truth’s Red Dress Collection 2010, Cynthia Steffe, Project Runway, Yigal Azrouёl, Michael Angel, Christian Siriano, Nicole Miller, Charlotte Ronson, Venexiana, Lacoste, Georges Chakra, Andy & Debb, Adam, Academy of Art University, Prabal Gurung, ARISE Magazine African Collective – III, Lela Rose, Luca Luca, Malandrino, DKNY, Rebecca Taylor, Calvin Klein Men’s Collection, Hervé Léger by Max Azria, Diane Von Furstenberg, TonyCohen, Y-3, Tuleh, Custo Barcelona, Vassilios Kostetsos, Carolina Herrera, Carlos Miele, Jill Stuart, Donna Karan Collection, Tracy Reese, Monique Lhuillier, Yeohlee, Tadashi Shoji, Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation, Perry Ellis, Elie Tahari, Badgley Mischka, Vera Wang, Pamella Roland, Max Azria, Dennis Basso, Diesel Black Gold, Thuy, Tibi, Narciso Rodriguez, Toni Francesc, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Milly by Michelle Smith, Alexandre Herchcovitch, Anna Sui, Brian Reyes, Ralph Lauren, Isaac Mizrahi, Trias, Calvin Klein Women’s Collection, Naeem Khan, J. Mendel and Tommy Hilfiger.

For more information about how to get involved or support the Red Dress campaign visit

Electronic Cigarettes – A New Way to Quit Smoking?


Recent U.S. statistics report that:

  • 23.5% of white men and 18.8% of white women still smoke 
  •  26% of black men and 18.5% of black women still smoke 
  •  10% of Hispanic men and 10% of Hispanic women still smoke
  • The highest percent is among American Indian/Alaska natives, 35.6% of men and 29% of women still smoke

Smoking is very costly both to our wallet and health.  Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.  There are numerous quit aides available to help people stop smoking – nicotine gum, nicotine patch, medications, hypnosis.  Now a new alternative is available – an electronic cigarette.  The e-cigarette is an electronic device powered by a microchip and is designed to look and feel like a real cigarette.  The e-cigarette contains nicotine but has no tar, tobacco or harmful carcinogens.  The nicotine once puffed becomes a vapor that resembles smoke and provides the physical sensation similar to tobacco smoke.

A survey of 10,000 electronic cigarette users found:

  • 72.5% out of 10,000 people were able to quit cigarette smoking within 45 days of using the e-cigarette on a daily basis
  • 89.5% of people agreed that within the first 2 days of using the e-cigarette they noticed an improvement in their breathing

This was a small survey not a scientific study and it was conducted by the manufacturers so results need to be interpreted with caution.  We are not recommending the e-cigarette to help people quit smoking but wanted to let people know that there is another alternative aide to quit smoking available.  Before starting to use any type of nicotine replacement therapy to quit smoking you should discuss your options with your healthcare provider.  Social support is also very important when trying to quit smoking so discuss your desire to quit with your family and friends.  If you have failed to stop smoking in the past – do not get discouraged, we are all human – tomorrow is a new day. 

For more heart healthy info please visit

The Bottom Line on High Blood Pressure


High blood pressure or hypertension is called the silent killer because it can cause damage to your heart and blood vessels even though you may not have any symptoms.  One out of three adults in the United States has high blood pressure.  Many people think of high blood pressure as an older persons disease, however an alarming increase has been observed among children secondary to inactivity and obesity. 

 High blood pressure can lead to kidney disease, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure (an enlargement of the heart muscle).  Can this be prevented?  Unfortunately family history, increased age and ethnicity (African Americans are at a much higher risk) are risk factors that cannot be controlled.  Postmenopausal women also have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.  But the good news is there are numerous diet and lifestyle risk factors that are modifiable: being overweight, physical inactivity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, emotional stress and consuming a high salt diet. Sleep apnea is an often unrecognized contributing factor to high blood pressure, when the sleep apnea is treated the blood pressure often improves.

 What do your blood pressure (BP) numbers mean?

Two numbers are obtained when you get your blood pressure (BP) checked.  The first number is called the systolic BP and tells you how hard your heart muscle is working in order to pump the blood out of your heart and throughout your body.  If the systolic BP is high it means your heart muscle is working too hard and can lead to an enlargement and weakening of the heart muscle which leads to heart failure.  When the systolic BP is too high, your risk for stroke increases.  The higher the systolic BP, the higher your risk for stroke.  The second number is called the diastolic BP and tells you how relaxed or constricted your blood vessels are.  If the diastolic BP is too high, blood is not able to circulate effectively.  So both numbers are important to control.

What is a normal blood pressure?

Below are the current guidelines for both men and women.

Normal BP                   Less than 120/80

Pre-hypertension          120 to 139/80 to 89

Hypertension                140/90 or greater

 Some people have “white coat hypertension” which means they have a transient increase in their blood pressure when they see someone in a white coat (healthcare provider).  A single elevated blood pressure reading caused by the apprehension of going to the doctor’s office usually does not require treatment.  It is not uncommon to have fluctuations in your blood pressure with activity and emotional events but consistently high readings require treatment. 

Can high blood pressure be cured?

Kidney disease, tumors of the adrenal glands, or coarctation (narrowing) of the aorta may lead to high blood pressure.  Treating these disorders may eliminate the blood pressure problems.  But the majority (95%) of people with high blood pressure have essential hypertension meaning the underlying cause cannot be determined.  The most important goal is to control the blood pressure even if a specific cause for the high blood pressure cannot be found.  There are a lot of things you can do to help control your blood pressure.  Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise (remember walking counts as exercise); smoking cessation, weight loss if overweight, stress management, limiting alcohol consumption and sodium restriction can help to lower blood pressure.  Some people are more salt sensitive, and just by cutting back on their salt intake can lower their blood pressure significantly.  

 Eight Tips to Lower Blood Pressure:

1) Low Sodium (salt) Diet – recommendation is less than 2,400mg per day, or less than 2,000 mg of sodium daily if you have high blood pressure

2) Increase Potassium Rich Foods – recommendation is 4,700 mg of potassium daily.  Good food sources of potassium include: Bananas, Dried beans, Tomatoes, Beef, Orange juice/grapefruit juice, Milk, Coffee, Potatoes, Kidney beans, Salmon/Halibut

3) Exercise – Aim for 30 minutes 5 to 7 days every week

4) Weight loss (if overweight) or maintain a healthy weight

5) Use fresh garlic frequently (chop garlic and let sit for 15 minutes – this allows garlic to oxidize and gets converted to allicin which is the heart healthy part of garlic)

6) Develop consistent healthy stress relief strategies (exercise, get a massage, yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, deep breathing exercises, read, listen to relaxing music) whatever works best for you

7) Stop smoking

8) Limit alcoholic beverages (no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women)

 Many people will require medications to help control their blood pressure readings.  The majority of people with high blood pressure require two or more medications to keep their blood pressure controlled, this is why numerous combination medications are available.  Routine monitoring of your blood pressure is also important.  If you are taking high blood pressure medications and your blood pressure numbers are good you should not stop taking your medications without consulting with your healthcare provider.  Most likely the reason your blood pressure numbers are good is because of the medications.

A recent Centers for Disease Control publication stated that only about 30% of adults with high blood pressure have their blood pressure well controlled!  The only way to know if you have high blood pressure or to know if it is controlled with medications is to check your blood pressure on a regular basis.  Do you know your numbers?  If not what are you waiting for – get it checked today! Your heart will thank you.

For more heart healthy info visit

Play Online Games for Free and Support the American Heart Association



I just came across this site today and wanted to share it to help support a great cause – The American Heart Association.

You play—everyone wins
Are you hooked on computer games? Play at Games That Give and you’ll raise money for the American Heart Association while you enjoy Solitaire, Sudoku and many more. The more you play, the more revenue Games That Give will donate.

Vote with Your Heart – Support the Red Dress Campaign


Campbell’s asked people across America to take inspiration from a real female heart-health hero who motivates them and share their story and their red dress design. In February, American Heart Month, the winning designer and their heart-health hero will travel to New York City to walk the red carpet at the Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards with fashion expert Tim Gunn and model the winning dress.

Read the finalist’s stories and learn about the heart-health hero who inspired them. Then view their designs and vote for your favorite story and dress. For each vote, Campbell’s is donating $1 up to $625,000 to the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women® movement. Voting ends January 28, but you can continue to click to donate through March 31, 2010. 

Click here to vote:

The Real Man’s Guide to Health