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Nutrition, Vitamins & Supplements for Seniors

Senior Citizens Need More Vitamin D to Prevent Loss of Mobility

Low vitamin D indicated 30% increased risk of mobility; almost a two-fold higher risk of mobility disability

May 29, 2012 - Older adults – seniors age 70 to 79 in this study - who don't get enough vitamin D from diet, supplements or sun exposure may be at increased risk of developing mobility limitations and disability, according to new research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Mobility limitation was defined as difficulty in walking several blocks or climbing a flight of stairs. Disability was determined by the inability to do these things.

"This is one of the first studies to look at the association of vitamin D and the onset of new mobility limitations or disability in older adults," said lead author Denise Houston, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition epidemiologist in the Wake Forest Baptist Department of Geriatrics and Gerontology. Houston researches vitamin D and its effects on physical function.

The study, published online this month in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, analyzed the association between vitamin D and onset of mobility limitation and disability over six years of follow-up using data from the National Institute on Aging's Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study.

 

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Of the 3,075 community-dwelling black and white men and women aged 70-79 who were enrolled, data from 2,099 participants was used for this study.

Eligible participants reported no difficulty walking one-fourth mile, climbing 10 steps, or performing basic, daily living activities, and were free of life-threatening illness. Vitamin D levels were measured in the blood at the beginning of the study. Occurrence of mobility limitation and disability during follow-up was assessed during annual clinic visits alternating with telephone interviews every six months over six years.

"We observed about a 30 percent increased risk of mobility limitations for those older adults who had low levels of vitamin D, and almost a two-fold higher risk of mobility disability," Houston said.

Houston said vitamin D plays an important role in muscle function, so it is plausible that low levels of the vitamin could result in the onset of decreased lower muscle strength and physical performance.

Vitamin D may also indirectly affect physical function as low vitamin D levels have also been associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and lung disease - conditions that are frequent causes of decline in physical function.

Houston said people get vitamin D when it is naturally produced in the skin by sun exposure, by eating foods with vitamin D, such as fortified milk, juice and cereals, and by taking vitamin D supplements.

"About one-third of older adults have low vitamin D levels," she said. "It's difficult to get enough vitamin D through diet alone and older adults, who may not spend much time outdoors, may need to take a vitamin D supplement."

Current recommendations call for people over age 70 to get 800 International Units of vitamin D daily in their diet or supplements. Houston pointed out that current dietary recommendations are based solely on vitamin D's effects on bone health.

"Higher amounts of vitamin D may be needed for the preservation of muscle strength and physical function as well as other health conditions," she said. "However, clinical trials are needed to determine whether increasing vitamin D levels through diet or supplements has an effect on physical function."

This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging and the Wake Forest University Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center.

Co-authors include: Janet A. Tooze, Ph.D., Gary G. Schwartz, Ph.D., Jeff D. Williamson, M.D., Stephen B Kritchevsky, Ph.D., Rebecca H. Neiberg, Ph.D. and M. Kyla Shea, Ph.D., all of Wake Forest Baptist; Dorothy B. Hausman, Ph.D., and Mary Ann Johnson, Ph.D., University of Georgia, Athens; Jane A. Cauley, Ph.D., University of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; Doug C. Bauer, M.D., University of California, San Francisco; and Tamara B. Harris, M.D., National Institute on Aging.


Links to More Archived Reports About Vitamin D

Vitamin D Appears Linked With Risk of Skin Cancer, Although Relationship Complex

Study looked at vitamin D level in senior citizens with non-melanoma skin cancers - Aug. 15, 2011


Vitamin D Helps Build Bone But Evidence Lacking That It Lowers Risk of Other Disease

IOM sets new dietary intake levels for calcium and vitamin D: Aging senior citizens, especially women, need more than others

Nov. 30, 2010


Vitamin D Deficiency Rampant in Patients for Orthopedic Surgery, Damaging Recovery

People undergoing procedures involving bone or muscle should correct their vitamin D if they want an earlier faster, better, result  - Oct. 6, 2010


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New tests indicated high levels of the sun vitamin, D, and now E, both help older people preserve their memory

July 13, 2010


Low Vitamin D in Senior Citizens Signals Cognitive Decline; Higher Parkinson’s Risk

An estimated 40 to 100% of seniors in U.S. and Europe are deficient in vitamin D: linked to fractures, various chronic diseases and death

July 12, 2010


Senior Citizens with Highest Levels of Vitamin D Show Most Vitality as They Age

Will vitamin D research lead us to The Fountain of Youth?New study does say participants with better physical function may have higher vitamin D simply because they go outside more often

April 26, 2010


Senior Citizens with High Levels of Vitamin D at Less Risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes

Review of 28 studies finds the vitamin associated with a substantial decrease in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome for seniors and middle aged - Feb. 16, 2010


Fractures that Plague Senior Citizens Can be Reduced by Taking Calcium with Vitamin D

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More Sunlight May Provide Senior Citizens with Lower Risk of Heart Disease, Diabetes

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May 11, 2009


Calcium Lowers Cancer Risk in Older People: More So for Women Than Men

Long respected by senior citizens as a nutrient for building strength in aging bones, calcium now adds ‘cancer fighter’ to its resume

Feb. 24, 2009


Link Between Blood Pressure and Outside Temperature for Seniors May Tie to Vitamin D

Researchers also urging close monitoring of elderly with hypertension during weather extremes; second study says thinking ability varies with blood pressure

Jan. 16, 2009


Vitamin D is ‘It’ Nutrient with Success Against Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease, Osteoporosis

Many of the 23 million Americans with diabetes have low vitamin D levels

Jan. 12, 2009


Scientists Find New Way to Detect, Treat Vitamin D Deficiency that Threatens Heart

Lack of vitamin D spells heart trouble as well as a lot of other ailments

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Remember the Bump? It's Back for Older Women as Way to Prevent Falls, Hip Fractures

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Low Level of Vitamin D Seems to Be Invitation to Most Deadly Diseases: Increases Death Risk

May be associated with death through effect on blood pressure, the body’s ability to respond to insulin, obesity and diabetes risk

Aug. 12, 2008


Calcium Calculator Now Online to Help Senior Citizens Fight Osteoporosis, Bone Breaks

People who are physically active and get enough calcium can strengthen their bones - even in old age

Sept. 12, 2008

 

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