by Stephen Roberts PhD
According to the Centers for Disease Control 30% of older adults fall each year resulting in 25,500 deaths annually. Approximately 25% of fall victims have injuries such as fractures in the hip, spine, forearm and ankle as well as head traumas.
A valuable strategy to prevent falls is to increase vitamin D to a protective level. Vitamin D use has been shown to decrease falls. This is critical, as many older individuals have low vitamin D levels.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 31 percent of older men and 38 percent of older women have low vitamin D levels in their blood. Another report found that 41% of adults were lacking vitamin D, with higher deficiency rates in minorities, those that are obese and individuals with poor health status.
One of the groups of people most vulnerable to falls are stroke victims with approximately 40% falling within 12 months of the stroke. In a study carried out by Yoshihiro Sato, patients who had suffered a stroke were given 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily and followed for 2 years. As compared to a control group that had not been given vitamin D, they had 59% fewer falls.
Part of the reason for the differences in falls with the two groups was changes that occurred in the muscles. As compared to the control group, those receiving vitamin D increased muscle strength and the diameter of type II muscle fibers.
Controlled Study Findings
Dr. Denise Houston and colleagues from the Wake Forest School of Medicine investigated an interesting idea of giving vitamin D supplements to Meals on Wheels clients. At the beginning of the project more than half of the participants had insufficient vitamin D. To carry out the study half of the participants were given a placebo and the other half were given vitamin D. Seniors receiving vitamin D fell approximately half the times that the placebo group fell.
Since adequate levels of vitamin D has been shown in studies to have a positive effect on risks related to prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, ingesting appropriate amounts of vitamin D seems a reasonable and easy thing to do.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health the best way for most people to get enough vitamin D is to take a supplement. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggests 600 IU per day for adults younger than 70 and 800 IU per day for those above 70.