July 6, 2006, Vol. IV Issue 14
As all of you regular readers know, I love it when any my speakers come to my part of the country. So I was delighted last week when Dr. Marie Savard presented a program at Southwest Washington Medical Center, a Spirit of Women hospital in Vancouver, Washington, just across the river from Portland. Dr. Savard is an internationally recognized women’s health expert and author of three nationally acclaimed books on health and wellness. She was here all the way from Philadelphia, along with Tanya Abreu, Executive Director of Spirit of Women from Cleveland.
We had some nice showy, blue sky mild weather for them on Monday night, and then on Tuesday the clouds came (actually unusual in July) to help illustrate one of the points of Dr. Savard’s message regarding the importance of Vitamin D – one of the sources of which, is, of course, the sun, and in cloudy, rainy climates, like the Northwest we don’t get enough most of the year. Well, then, there’s the whole skincare/sun issue, too. Anyway, I learned a lot and share some of it with you in this issue.
And, with this issue, I’ll say Arrivederci for a month. I’m off to Prague and Italy for two weeks and will resume publication Aug. 24 (back in the office Aug. 14). I hope you’re having some new adventures this summer and making some memories whether they’re in your backyard or across the ocean. Ciao.
Dr. Marie Savard: Boning Up on Vitamin D
I first wrote about Dr. Marie Savard last September and featured information from her newest book, Apples and Pears: The Body Shape Solution for Weight Loss and Wellness.
Incidentally, the book has since been issued in paperback titled, The Body Shape Solution to Weight Loss and Wellness. I love the concepts in this book that suggests a tape measure around our middles is a better indicator of our health risks for things like heart disease, than the scale.
In Vancouver, Washington, last week for a Spirit of Women “What Women Put Up With” event, at Southwest Washington Medical Center, her topic was Vitamin D and bone health. Interestingly, the packed room was a mixed audience just loaded for bear with questions – and very good ones, I might add, including quite a colorful discussion about cod liver oil! They really kept her hopping and she was very much up to the task.
The topic was particularly interesting to me because when I went for my annual women’s wellness check-up this year, I was asked to bring a list of the vitamins & supplements I take. It turned out my doctor was especially interested in my Vitamin D intake. She’d been reading some studies regarding the benefits of Vitamin D in relationship to various diseases. She was paying particular interest to this topic because here in the Northwest, we typically don’t have a lot of sunlight in the wintertime. As you may know, sunlight is responsible for stimulating Vitamin D production naturally in our bodies.
“Seventy percent of women ages 51-70 are not getting enough Vitamin D,” Dr. Marie told the audience.
Vitamin D, along with calcium and exercise have been listed as the three essential elements for optimal bone health by the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health & Osteoporosis (2204).
Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D is necessary for the development of strong bones because it helps increase the intestinal absorption of calcium. Women who are vitamin D deficient are at increased risk of developing bone health problems such as osteoporosis.
One of the things I learned about Vitamin D is that it is a fat soluble hormone. Actually, it’s a vitamin because your body cannot absorb calcium without it; it’s a hormone because your body manufactures it in response to your skin’s exposure to sunlight. It’s important to every cell in your body.
Our bodies naturally keep our calcium levels steady and will take calcium from our bones when they don’t get enough. Marie explained the science behind the importance of calcium and Vitamin D to our bone health in an understandable way. She also pointed out that there are two types of Vitamin D and you want to make sure it’s Vitamin D3 that you’re getting. D2 (ergocalciferol) which is the weaker variety, is what’s found in most multi-vitamins. D3 (cholecalciferol) is the more active, potent one you want. Check your supplement bottles!
Many times in her presentation, Dr. Marie referred to her sisters. She comes from a large family but she wasn’t referring to her biological sisters, she was talking about the retired missionary nuns she takes care of at the Cabrini Nursing Home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Many are quite elderly and frail, she noted, and justifiably afraid of falling. She used examples of her experiences caring for the nuns over and over. They’ve been like a laboratory of learning about aging, and she refers to them with great love.
Take exercise for example. In an effort to make things simple, some people advocate simply picking up a couple of cans and using them as arm weights. This is something one can do just sitting or standing in place. “Can you imagine,” Dr. Marie said, “many of these nuns have hands gnarled by arthritis. They couldn’t grab a can if they tried, much less hold on to it without dropping it on their feet.”
The solution? She recommends wide elastic bands (Therma-Band resistance bands) that come in various resistance strengths and can be used by anyone, anyplace for strength or resistance training. There isn’t anything easier to throw in your briefcase, suitcase, or even your purse, she noted.
As she says in her book, “If I had a magic genie that could grant me one wish that would do the greatest good for the most people, it would be that people would learn to find joy in physical activity. Exercise is the single most powerful weapon we have in our personal health arsenal.”
The elastic band was just one of the things she pulled out of her jacket pockets during her presentation. Another was a self-addressed stamped business envelope (SASBE). An outspoken advocate for taking charge of your health, Marie recommends you always take an SASBE to your appointment, so your doctor’s office will mail you your test results. You have a right to copies of all your records, she told us.
I felt a bit smug that my Vitamin D levels have already been tested. They even came out good. How do I know? I got my results in the mail (without having to supply the self-addressed, stamped envelope), just as I get all my other test results.
The lesson, however, is not lost on me, that this is one small way you can take control of your healthcare and be your own advocate. And that is the final message that Marie left us with – “You have to be informed, you have to understand what you’re taking and make a decision about whether it’s the best one for you.”
These are just a few of the morsels of valuable information she shared in an enjoyable way (and the audience was hungry for it). Whether talking about body shape, heart health, osteoporosis risks or taking charge of your health, Marie marries science with women’s wisdom and delivers the message with grace and levity.
To take the vitamin D risk assessment, to find out more information about “What Women Put Up With” events, or to download a patient-friendly vitamin D brochure, please visit What Women Put Up With.
Spirit of Women hospitals and health systems share a common goal to advance women’s wellness in their own communities while building a reputation for regional leadership in women’s health services. Click here for more information about Spirit of Women
Learn more about Marie’s credentials and background or inquire about her availability on our website.
Leaving on a Jet Plane
Sunday, July 30th, we’re taking off for Europe to visit family. My (still new!) husband and I will spend our first anniversary in Tuscany where the children and grandchildren are convening! Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, just returned from Italy and told me there’s lots of good healthy food to eat – fresh vegetables, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella. Of course, she said, it all depends on what you order! It seems that is a universal conundrum. And the vino in Montepulciano, where we’re staying is purported to be among the best. On the way there, we’ll be stopping in Prague which well-travelled Holly Stiel tells me is her favorite place in all the world.
So, for the first time in the three years we’ve been publishing For Your Well Being, we are going to skip a couple of issues and resume publication August 24. We’re doing as the Italians do and our offices will be closed July 31st to Aug. 12th.
When we got married last August, I wasn’t publishing this e-news with pictures, so now that we do have that capability, I thought I’d share one of the happy couple and one of me with our speaker friends who came from near and far to celebrate the day. Next time, perhaps a photo from Italy or Prague!
Until next time, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.