A fall can be devastating for an older person. Breaking a hip is associated with a high risk of premature death as a result of complications.
That’s why doctors are interested in ways to help patients prevent falls. A two-year, placebo-controlled randomized study was disappointing in this respect.
The investigators assigned 400 elderly Finnish women to one of four groups: placebo pill and no exercise, vitamin D pill and no exercise, vitamin D and exercise, and placebo and exercise. The expectation was that either vitamin D or exercise or both would reduce the number of falls these women recorded in their research diaries. The pills provided 800 IU of vitamin D daily.
Exercise Associated with Less Harm
Exercise did improve balance and muscle strength, and the women who exercised were less likely to harm themselves if they fell. Vitamin D improved bone strength, but did not affect physical function. The research underscores the importance of exercise, even as people grow older.
The researchers did not discuss the role of medications such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety agents in contributing to falls in older people, but this is a risk that concerns us.