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Taking vitamin D in high doses can reduce hip fracture risk

July 6, 2012

Of all the threats to senior health and independent living, fractures are among the most prevalent. In fact, fractures are the most common injury to come from a fall. However, results of a new study suggest high doses of vitamin D may substantially reduce the risk of fractures and breaks.

The study, which was recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine, suggests taking a daily dose of at least 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D to reap the benefits, and they're pretty substantial. The team found that the dose could reduce the risk of hip fractures by as much as 30 percent while lowering the chance of a complete break by 14 percent.

"These hip fractures cost a lot and are a really serious event. They are usually the end of independent life for a senior person; 50 percent do not regain their mobility. Reducing the risk by 30 percent with just a vitamin supplement would be an enormous public health opportunity," study researcher Dr. Heike Bischoff-Ferrari told Reuters Health.

The findings did come with some caveats, however. Most notably, researchers found more than the recommended amount of calcium, or about 1,000 milligrams per day, could lower the benefits from high doses of vitamin D.

Although changes to nutrition can help reduce the risk of fractures and falls, there are many other lifestyle choices that can improve seniors' health as well. The best way for seniors to prevent falls is to stay physically active. According to the Mayo Clinic, many exercises, such as walking, swimming or cycling, improve strength and balance, two important aspects of avoiding falls.

Along with exercise, making some smart changes around the house can be helpful as well. In particular, removing certain hazards around the house such as boxes, electrical cords or other objects that can raise the threat of tripping, will significantly lower the risk of falling.

Whether through exercise, changes around the house or an increased dose of vitamin D, avoiding falls and fractures should be of the utmost importance to all seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around one in three adults over 65 experiences a fall each year.