Shedding Light on Vitamin D Deficiency in Women

By McGovern, Victoria | Environmental Health Perspectives, July 2004 | Go to article overview

Shedding Light on Vitamin D Deficiency in Women


McGovern, Victoria, Environmental Health Perspectives


Falls are the largest cause of injury mortality among the elderly. More than a third of U.S. people 65 or over will fall each year, with many fracturing a hip, spine, or forearm. These fractures seriously weaken 20-30% of those who experience them, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as kick off a cascade of direct costs, including hospitalization, rehabilitation, nursing home stays, and equipment. The CDC estimates that such costs will rise with the growing senior population, reaching more than $43 billion by 2020. Recent research on fall injuries in the elderly suggests that vitamin D supplementation could help prevent some of these falls and fractures.

A number of factors linked to elders' risk of falling--cognitive impairment, poor balance, and injuries to the legs--are difficult to improve. But depletion of vitamin D stores is easily remedied to improve safety and lessen the number of falls.

Vitamin D status depends mainly on eating foods containing the nutrient and ultraviolet light-induced vitamin D synthesis in the skin. "As older people become more frail and disabled," says Leon Flicker, a medical professor at the University of Western Australia, "they do not go out as much, and are more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency." If they go into assisted living, levels drop further. …

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