How can vitamin D help reduce the risk of falls?

Falls are a concern for everyone but especially those with osteoporosis, as they are more likely to break a bone and need a much longer time to recover. It is estimated that one‐third of people aged 65 and over will fall one or more times a year,1 which can lead to considerable consequences. Some of the reasons people fall include:2

  • Tripping or slipping due to loss of footing or traction.
  • Slow reflexes.
  • Balance problems.
  • Decreased muscle strength.
  • Poor vision.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Illness and some medicines.

Vitamin D may play a role in reducing the risk of falls by improving muscle tone and strength, which tends to decline with age. Vitamin D receptors are found on cells in muscle and this important nutrient appears to play a role in muscle protein synthesis.3

Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to decrease the risk of falling in people over the age of 65. In one study, taking at least 700IU of vitamin D daily reduced the likelihood of falling by 26% within two‐five months.4

A vitamin D deficiency is associated with muscle weakness, falls and fractures among older people.5 A deficiency in vitamin D is common in the elderly as the capacity to synthesise it tends to decrease with age.5 In order to reduce the incidence of falls and related fractures it is therefore vital that vitamin D levels are adequate. Those over the age of 65 years of age may require a vitamin D supplement to ensure their needs are met.

How else can falls be reduced?

Along with ensuring you obtain sufficient vitamin D, you can avoid falls and lower the risk of associated injuries by taking certain precautions. These include:

  • Exercising regularly to improve bone and muscle strength, balance and flexibility. If you have osteoporosis or a previous fracture, consult a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist about the right exercise for your needs
  • Having your eyes tested annually.
  • Removing clutter and making sure walkways are kept clear and well lit.
  • Securing rugs and mats to the floor with adhesive strips.
  • Using a non‐skid bath mat in showers and baths, and installing grab rails where necessary.
  • Wiping up spills immediately.
  • Ensuring your home has adequate lighting.
  • Wearing low‐heeled shoes or ones with rubber soles.
  • Using a cane or walker if needed.
  • Avoiding walking in socks, stockings or slippers.
  • Ensuring stairs are well lit and have grab rails on each side.
  • Keeping outdoor paths well swept and free from moss and lichen.
  • Repairing broken or uneven walking surface.