At a women’s health conference held at Obs-Gyne Exhibition and Congress in March 2017, leading healthcare experts have warned that the three most prevalent rheumatic conditions affecting women in UAE are osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and vitamin D deficiency.
Experts warned that the need to address these health concerns is immediate as the effects are debilitating and often difficult to recognise, and will inevitably lead to further health complications.
Organised by Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions and held at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, the conference was attended by more than 50 of Dubai’s healthcare thought-leaders to address the major health concerns affecting women in UAE.
Dr. Humeira Badsha, Consultant Rheumatologist stated that rheumatic conditions are more common in women than men. What’s, perhaps, more alarming is that it’s estimated that as many as 80% of pregnant women suffer from a chronic lack of vitamin D in UAE.
The frequency and duration of skin exposure to UVB sunlight are the primary cause of vitamin D deficiency amongst women. Women who choose to spend little time outdoors are increasingly at risk of developing serious vitamin D deficiencies. Sunshine that passes through glass and plexiglass does not contain UVB and is therefore ineffective for skin synthesis of cholecalciferol (the type of vitamin D that’s found in food and supplements.)
Additionally, women that use a liberal amount of sunscreen or who wear clothing that covers much of their skin will adsorb insufficient amounts of vitamin D and put themselves at risk from developing a vitamin D deficiency and further complications, such as osteoporosis.
Dr. Badsha stated that often women and girls do not realise that osteoporosis is a silent disease – one with symptoms that often go unnoticed, and hence untreated for a prolonged time. Such is the severity of the condition that women living with osteoporosis can suffer a bone fracture after a minor fall.
Research conducted through a series of screening programmes in Dubai found a high level of osteopenia in women of all ages. Women over the age of fifty are at risk of suffering an osteoporotic fracture. This concern can be drastically reduced or eradicated with increased exposure to sunlight, vitamin D-rich diet, or taking supplements.
According to Dr. Badsha, studies have shown that 70% of post-menopausal women in UAE and a quarter of healthy young adults have low bone density. At present as many as 90% of women in the UAE suffer from vitamin D deficiency. *
What is a Healthy Vitamin D Intake?
Medical professionals in Dubai agree that the recommended daily vitamin D allowance is 600 international units (IU) per day, rising to 800 IU for women over the age of seventy.
Few foods contain enough vitamin D to meet the recommended daily allowance. An egg yolk, for example, has just 41 IU, however a single tablespoon of cod liver oil has 1,360 IU.
The best ways for women to improve their vitamin D levels are to take daily supplement and modify their diet to include vitamin D-rich foods. Recommended foods include canned tuna, fresh salmon and swordfish, in addition to drinking juices rich in vitamin D.
Fortunately, in Dubai, fresh fish is plentiful and can be found at fish markets in Jumeriah and Dubai Creek. Most supermarkets will also stock a selection of drinks to help enhance depleted vitamin D levels.
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