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Vitamin D improves hip fracture patients’ odds of walking again and avoiding life-threatening complications

- and avoiding life-threatening complications

Vitamin D improves hip fracture patients’ odds of walking again and avoiding life-threatening complicationsHip fractures are particularly common among older people and are often associated with a number of serious complications. However, seniors that are not vitamin D-deficient may have better chances of walking again after their surgery, according to a new study that is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Earlier Danish research even shows that having sufficient amounts of vitamin D in your blood lowers the risk of dying of serious complications after sustaining a fractured hip. Therefore, the scientists recommend that all older people take a high-dosed vitamin D supplement daily and that they have their vitamin D levels measured when they are admitted in the hospital.

Hip fractures, which are cracks or breaks in the top of the thigh bone (femur), occur very suddenly as a result of a fall or an injury. Torn blood vessels may also occur. The majority of cases are reported among older people, and the condition is most commonly seen in females that already have osteoporosis. A hip fracture always requires surgery. The recovery also begins on the same day as surgery because the bones need to gain strength.
Hip fractures are associated with serious complications and many patients are unable to manage on their own after they undergo surgery. Fractured hips are also linked to mortality, with 20-30 percent of patients dying within the first year after surgery as a result of pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, blood clots in the legs, or other complications. Because hip fractures are associated with so many human and economical costs, it is highly relevant to focus on prevention and specifically look closer at vitamin D’s role.

  • It is commonly known that vitamin D is important for the body’s calcium uptake and for bone health.
  • However, most of the cells in the body have vitamin D receptors, including cells in the muscles that protect the skeleton.

Vitamin D improves your mobility – even in the wake of a hip fracture

The new study from Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA, included hip fracture patients from the age of 65 years and older from the United States and Canada. The scientists analyzed the patients’ diets, vitamin D levels in their blood, and their mobility. The study also took into account the patients’ mortality rate or lacking ability to walk 10 steps without help after surgery.
The study revealed that having more vitamin D in the blood is correlated significantly with an improved ability to walk one and two months after having undergone surgery. Also, poor eating habits and low vitamin D levels were significantly linked to impaired walking ability one and two months after surgery.
This correlation is important because poor eating habits and lack of vitamin D is quite common among the older patients that sustain hip fractures. The new study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

  • The sun during the summer period is our main source of vitamin D
  • Older people often have difficulty with synthesizing vitamin D because of their thin skin
  • Factors like spending too much time indoors, lack of sunlight during winter, being overweight, and using cholesterol-lowering medicine can contribute to vitamin D deficiency problems

Vitamin D supplements can prevent complicated falls and bone fractures

Earlier studies have shown that daily supplementation with 20 micrograms of vitamin D can prevent fall injuries and bone fractures. The reason why vitamin D can prevent falls is that it strengthens the skeletal muscles. In Denmark, the reference intake level for vitamin D for adults is 5 micrograms. The Danish health authorities recommend 10 micrograms to pregnant women, infants, dark-skinned individuals, and people that avoid direct sunlight. A daily 20-microgram supplement is recommended to nursing home residents and people from the age of 70 years and older. Many scientists also claim that the actual need for vitamin D is higher, and their recommendations lie in the range between 30-100 micrograms per day.

  • Vitamin D in the blood is measured as 25-hydroxy-vitamin D
  • The official threshold value is 50 ng/ml
  • Leading scientists believe that this is insufficient and recommend as much as 75-100 ng/ml for optimal disease prevention

Vitamin D can lower mortality in hip fracture patients

At Hvidovre Hospital in Denmark, researchers have tried comparing blood samples with the risk of developing various diseases or dying of them. Professor Henrik L. Jørgensen has analyzed vitamin D levels in 250,000 people from Copenhagen and found that patients with low levels of the nutrient in their blood have a 2.5 times greater risk of dying of various diseases. This includes the risk of dying of the complications associated with hip fractures.

The amount of vitamin D, potassium, sodium, or hemoglobin in the blood can help predict which patients have the greatest risk of dying of hip fracture, heart disease, thyroid disease, and cancer.

(Source: Hvidovre Hospital)

Remember to get enough magnesium and calcium for healthy bones

We also need magnesium to convert the form of vitamin D that we get from sun exposure or from diet and supplement into its active form. Hip fractures are often a result of osteoporosis, which is why we should focus much more on getting enough vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin K2 to help us maintain strong and healthy bones. This article takes a closer look at the subject:

» Prevent fragile bones early in life and read more about why too much calcium and overconsumption of dairy products can be harmful «


Rutgers University. Vitamin D boost chances of walking after hip fracture. ScienceDaily

Niamh Aspell et al. Vitamin D deficiency Is Associated With Impaired Muscle Strength And Physical Performance in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: Findings From The English Longitudinal Study Of Ageing. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2019

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