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Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated with Osteoporosis in the Elderly
By Matt Brignall, ND

Healthnotes Newswire Stroke patients with low blood levels of vitamin D are far more likely to have hip fractures than those patients with normal levels of the vitamin, according to a study published in the July journal Stroke.1

The authors studied 216 Japanese men and women who had suffered a stroke in the past but were not completely bedridden. Vitamin D levels were measured at the beginning of the study, and patients were followed for two years to determine the incidence of hip fractures.

Over the two years of follow-up, seven of the 88 participants with the most severe vitamin D deficiency suffered a hip fracture. In contrast, none of the 72 patients with sufficient levels of vitamin D fractured a hip during this period.

Osteoporosis is prevalent in the aging population, with as many as 40% of elderly women destined to sustain a fracture in their lifetimes.2 Risk of hip fracture is at least twice as high in stroke survivors as in the rest of the population.3 Some of this increase in risk is undoubtedly due to osteoporosis. However, in the majority of stroke victims who suffer a hip fracture, the fracture results from a fall.

While the importance of vitamin D for preventing osteoporosis is well known, it is less well appreciated that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels may help prevent elderly people from falling down. In a double-blind trial of elderly women, supplementing with 800 international units of vitamin D per day for eight weeks significantly reduced “body sway,” a measure of how well someone maintains balance.4 More importantly, vitamin D supplementation reduced the number of falls during a one-year follow-up period by 47%.

Vitamin D is produced in the skin upon exposure to sunlight. It is also found in many foods, including fish, liver, and fortified milk. Vitamin D blood levels tend to be low in the elderly population.

References
1. Sato Y, Asoh T, Kondo I, Satoh K. Vitamin d deficiency and risk of hip fractures among disabled elderly stroke patients. Stroke 2001;32:1673–7.
2. Doherty DA, Sanders KM, Kotowicz MA, Prince RL. Lifetime and five-year age-specific risks of first and subsequent osteoporotic fractures in postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int 2001;12:16–23.
3. Ramnemark A, Nyberg L, Borssen B, et al. Fractures after stroke. Osteoporos Int 1998;8:92–5.
4. Pfeifer M, Begerow B, Minne HW, et al. Effects of a short-term vitamin D and calcium supplementation on body sway and secondary hyperparathyroidism in elderly women. J Bone Miner Res 2000;15:1113–8.

Matt Brignall, ND, is in practice at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center and at the Evergreen Integrative Medicine Clinic in Kirkland, WA. He specializes in integrative treatment of cancer.




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