The other week I had a blood test at the behest of my sweet young GP because I’m ‘of a certain age’ and we, apparently, needed to ‘just check’ how things were going.
So, I’m pretty much okay but I was shocked to hear that I have a vitamin D deficiency. This in itself wouldn’t be such a shock if it weren’t for the fact that I live in the ‘Sunshine State’ of Queensland but after a bit of research I discovered that I am not alone in my D deficiency as 1 in 4 Australian adults have this issue. 1 in 4 adults seems pretty low, but when you look a bit deeper it seems that it’s this low because a lot of us take supplements.
Supplements? Why would you take supplements when you’ve beaches and sunshine? I hear you ask.
And you’re right, Australia is, overall, still a lucky country. Not because we are on riding the sheep’s back with trade anymore (until recently we were more likely to be swilling merrily with our wine trade) but because of our gorgeous weather. Well, gorgeous if you ignore the the ‘droughts and flooding rains’ not to mention the bushfires, but you can’t have everything. However, when things are good weather-wise here, they are really good.
But, I stay indoors like so many of us today. We watched the older generations fight the dreaded melanoma and we watched a lot of those people die as a result. The government launched a campaign of ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ – slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat which did wonders for the nation’s attitude toward unfettered sunbathing. Schools instituted a ‘no hat, no play’ rule in the playgrounds across the nation which meant that wearing a hat outdoors for many became second nature.
Yes, we became a nation of cautious sun frolickers, but it wasn’t just the ads and the rules that made us wary.
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I spent heaps of time outside often without a hat or sunscreen. However, in the late 70s, my dad had his first lot of sunspots removed from his skin with a really aggressive treatment which was both painful and ugly; he was not yet 30. Dad had been a lifesaver and had diligently put zinc sunscreen on his nose and lips to protect his fair skin against the Gold Coast sun but nowhere else, and only 10 years later, he was paying the price.
My grandmother, with equally fair skin, used to sun bake with coconut oil in her youth in the 1940s so that she could get that sun-kissed glow which looked magnificent with her strawberry blonde hair. She, too, has had sun spots and cancers removed from her body every year for as long as I can remember.
Perhaps unlucky for me, I have inherited their fair skin but I was determined not to suffer the same fate so I donned a hat, slathered on the sunscreen and kept pretty much indoors if I could.
However, this didn’t quite work out I expected. At 36, I had a basal carcinoma removed from my lip and at 49 I had a basal carcinoma removed from my eye (don’t panic, they got it early so no one can tell and my eye is still there – yah!) so now I REALLY stay indoors.
And when you look at my country’s history, my history, and my family history, that makes absolute sense but the vitamin D thing is an issue.
Apparently, not having enough vitamin D can cause fatigue, depression, skin rashes, body aches, loss of bone density, poor memory and a compromised immune system among other things. Here I was thinking I was just getting old because I was tired and forgetful turns out I was deficient! D deficient! (Sounds like a rapper stage name). Not only that but this deficiency can make you more susceptible to a whole other range of chronic disease nasties like gout, osteoporosis, obesity and cancer.
Eek, and I was staying out the sun because I wanted to avoid cancer.
So, with that in mind, I am going to be taking the supplements and aiming for those 20 minutes a day… if I can get over my morbid fear of skin cancer and replace it with a morbid fear of breast cancer, forgetfulness and osteoporosis.
Isn’t getting older a hoot?