Vitamin D is topic to talk about this monthFebruary is vitamin D awareness month in Bradford and Airedale: with a wide range of local people, community groups and health professionals working together to raise awareness of vitamin D deficiency.
The new public health campaign aims to encourage more people in Bradford and Airedale to learn more about the importance of vitamin D and how to top up on it to avoid the risk of deficiency.
Many people are unaware that they or their children could be at risk of vitamin D deficiency by not getting outdoors enough each day.
Vitamin D is often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ because most of the vitamin D we need is made from sunlight by our skin. Vitamin D helps control the amount of calcium we absorb from our diets, and so is important to make and keep strong bones.
To help tackle the issue of vitamin D deficiency, the local NHS and partners are holding a series of awareness events in communities that are particularly at risk from deficiency of this important vitamin.
At the events there are posters, displays, leaflets and vitamin D ‘champions’ who have been trained in passing on messages about how people in their own communities can help themselves keep healthy by getting enough of the vitamin from the sun, food and supplements.
The national Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that up to a quarter of people in the UK have low levels of vitamin D in their blood which can lead to bone pain, muscle weakness, and at its most extreme, can cause rickets in children.
In Bradford and Airedale, between 2007 and 2010, over 5,000 people from babies to people over 80 were diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency; and there are likely to be many more people in the community who are undiagnosed.
The good news is that is it possible to get enough vitamin D. There are two main ways to do this – getting exposure to the sunshine without burning, or taking vitamin D supplements.
To get enough vitamin D, it is recommended that people in the UK expose their face and forearms to the sun, without sunscreen, most days between the hours of 11am and 3pm from April to October. The length of time in the sun without sunscreen or covering up needs to be less than it takes for the skin to go red or burn
It is also recommended that the following groups of people take daily vitamin D supplements:
- adults over 65 years
- pregnant or breastfeeding women
- people with darker skin
- people who cover up their body when outside (eg, wear a niqab or burqa, or use a lot of sunscreen)
- babies, growing children and teenagers
- people who spend a lot of time indoors.
It is also important that people eat a balanced diet including foods rich in vitamin D and calcium: oily fish, cereals with added vitamin D, eggs, margarine and evaporated milk.
Dr Merav Kliner, from the public health team at NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds, said:
“Everyone needs vitamin D to make strong bones, and the good news is that there are a number of ways to get it. Vitamin supplements can help for people who are at risk of low levels of Vitamin D. But it’s also important for people to get more exposure to sunlight, making sure they don’t burn, and to eat a balanced diet including foods rich in vitamin D and calcium.
“This awareness month is a great opportunity for people at risk to learn more about the importance of vitamin D and how simple changes to their diet, or the time they spend outdoors, can make a big difference to their own and their family’s health.”
Other work in the district includes:
- all infants up to six months old are offered Healthy Start vitamin drops, which contain vitamin D, from their health visitor
- Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Airedale NHS Foundation Trust offer all pregnant women Healthy Start vitamins to last throughout pregnancy to help give them and their growing baby the best start.
People can also get more information from www.nhs.uk and www.healthystart.nhs.uk or drop-in to one of the community events happening this month:
- Weds 20 Feb, 12pm-1.30pm: African Caribbean lunch at St Paul’s, Manningham, BD8 7LS
- Mon 25 Feb, 9am-11am: Live at Home project coffee morning, Salvation Army Hall, Holroyd Hill, Wibsey, BD 6 1PQ
- Weds 27 Feb, 12.30pm-2.30pm: Lower Grange Community Centre, Chaffinch Rd, Lower Grange, Bradford, BD8 0RF
- Thurs 28 Feb, 11am-2pm: BEAP (Bangladeshi Community Centre)