As we age, our risk of falling rises dramatically, and with it our risk of suffering a hip fracture. In fact, in the United States alone, over 300,000 seniors are hospitalized for hip fracture each year, three-quarters of them women.
And, if you end up in this group, one of the most vital things you can do is to regain your mobility. It’s a step that helps you remain independent and capable of living on your own. And it also significantly reduces your risk of death.
Now, a brand new study has found what could be the key to getting your mobility back after surgery. And it’s all wrapped up in your levels of one particular vitamin.
Improving your chances of walking post-surgery
The study, led by scientists at Rutgers University was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And the results demonstrate that vitamin D deficiency can limit mobility in older adults.
Yup, if you don’t have enough of the sunshine vitamin floating around in your bloodstream, your chances of walking again following hip surgery plummet.
The study followed patients 65 or older in the United States and Canada to measure the effects of vitamin D levels in blood serum on mobility. Specifically, it keyed in on death rate or the inability to walk just 10 feet (or across a room) without someone’s help after surgery.
And it found that vitamin D levels above 12 nanograms per milliliter are associated with a higher rate of walking at both 30 and 60 days after hip fracture surgery.
“This matters because vitamin D deficiency and malnutrition are common disorders in elderly patients with hip fractures and often occur together since both are complications of poor nutrition,” said senior author Sue Shapses, a professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
The Goldilocks dilemma
Specifically, the scientists are recommending that seniors take 800 international units (IUs) of vitamin D daily (the RDA set by the Institutes of Health) because previous research has shown that amount can decrease falls and fractures.
Why is this important?
Because a Rutgers- led study published last year indicated that taking high levels of vitamin D (4,000 IU a day) compared to 600 IUs may reduce reaction time, potentially increasing the risk for fracture.
However, if you’re deficient, you could need more to correct the deficiency before tapering off to a low daily RDA dose — especially if you’re working against factors that rob you of vitamin D, like obesity, darker skin, age (older people are less efficient vitamin D producers than the young) and the health of your gut, liver and kidneys.
To know where to start, your doctor can perform a simple blood test to measure your blood levels of vitamin D. According to the Endocrine Society, the preferred test is the 25-hydroxyvitamin D, written as 25(OH)D. Then, your doctor may have supplementation recommendations that fall in line with what the Endocrine Society suggests as well.
And they suggest adults over the age of 18 who are found to be deficient be treated with 50,000 IU of vitamin D3 once a week for eight weeks or the equivalent of 6,000 IU of D3 daily to achieve a blood level of 25(OH)D above 30 ng/mL, followed by maintenance therapy of 1,500-2,000 IU/day.
If you could be at risk for a vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor to get tested and avoid this danger.
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Vitamin D boosts chances of walking after hip fracture – ScienceDaily
9 things that can undermine your vitamin D level — Harvard Health Publishing
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms and Treatment — Medicinenet.com