Vitamin D may boost walking chances after hip fracture

Women fall more frequently than men, experiencing three-quarters of hip fractures, as per the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

Older adults who are not vitamin D deficient have a better chance of walking after hip fracture surgery, say researchers suggesting that taking 800 international units (IU), equivalent to 20 micrograms of the vitamin daily may prevent deficiency. Vitamin D is important for bone health, and people get it through some foods, exposure to the sun and vitamin pills.

"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 study senior author Sue Shapses, Professor at the Rutger University in US.

Broken hip is hard to recover from

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A broken hip - among the most serious fall injuries - is hard to recover from, with many people unable to live on their own afterwards. In the US, more than 300,000 people 65 or older are hospitalized for hip fractures annually and falling causes more than 95 percent of these type of fractures.

Women fall more frequently than men, experiencing three-quarters of hip fractures, and the number of fractures is likely to rise as the population ages, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said that regaining mobility after a hip fracture is important for full recovery and to reduce the risk of death. But vitamin D deficiency is associated with reduced mobility after surgery to repair a hip fracture. The multi-site study of patients 65 or older in the US and Canada examined the influence of vitamin D levels in blood serum and nutrition on mobility.

Study focused on death rate

The study focused on death rate or inability to walk 10 feet (or across a room) without someone's help after surgery. The findings showed that vitamin D levels greater than 12 nanograms per milliliter (12 parts per billion) in blood serum are associated with a higher rate of walking at 30 and 60 days after hip fracture surgery.

While poor nutrition is associated with reduced mobility 30 days after surgery, that factor was not statistically significant. Still, in patients with high levels of parathyroid hormone, which leads to high levels of calcium in blood, mobility was reduced if their nutritional status was poor. According to the researchers, previous studies have shown that taking 800 IU of vitamin D a day can prevent falling and fractures.