Preeclampsia is a condition which may occur late in a woman’s pregnancy, and severe preeclampsia can be life threatening. It usually happens quickly, causing headaches and bloating, and sending the pregnant mother’s blood pressure soaring. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, the disorder affects between 5 and 8 percent of pregnant women, and preeclampsia and related conditions result in the death of 500,000 babies and 76,000 women every year.
But recent research from the University of Pittsburgh reveals a certain risk factor that may be relatively easy to control.
Vitamin D deficiencies found
Using blood samples taken from 700 pregnant women who developed preeclampsia and another 3000 pregnant women who did not, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh sought to determine whether a woman’s level of Vitamin D might affect her risk of developing this condition.
Controlling for several factors which could affect a woman’s level of Vitamin D, the scientists did find that women with ample Vitamin D in their blood had a significantly lower risk of developing severe preeclampsia. In fact, a woman’s risk of developing this condition was 40 percent lower than those whose levels of Vitamin D were insufficient.
Increasing Vitamin D levels
The single most effective way to increase your level of Vitamin D is to spend time outdoors in the sunlight. According to the Vitamin D Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness about Vitamin D and its effects, the amount of time you need to spend in the sunlight varies depending on factors such as where you live, the time of day, and the color of your skin. But you can get plenty of beneficial sun exposure in about half the time it would take your skin to start turning pink.
Recent research also indicates that sun exposure can help nitric oxide get into your bloodstream, which helps promote a healthy cardiovascular system and reduces high blood pressure.
Ways to catch your rays
Pregnant women can spend time outside, especially in sunny, warmer months, to produce ample levels of Vitamin D. Just opening the curtains and sitting near a sunny window isn’t enough, because the useful UVB rays are blocked by glass.
If you live in a region where the sun’s rays are just not strong enough in the winter for adequate Vitamin D production, or if spending time outside is too uncomfortable in the summer, you can opt for a tanning bed. Just remember, you don’t need to actually tan your skin to get the exposure you need. You don’t want to lower your risk of severe preeclampsia only to increase your risk of skin cancer. Always get out of the sun well before your skin turns pink.
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