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High-Dose Vitamin D Reduces Risk of Falls in Nursing Home Residents

Researchers at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research have found that a high dose of vitamin D can reduce the risk and incidence of falls in nursing home residents.

The researchers studied 124 residents at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston, with an average age of 89 years. The participants were randomly assigned to receive one of four vitamin D supplement doses (200 International Units, 400 IU, 600 IU or 800 IU) or a placebo daily for five months. The researchers found that study participants taking 800 IU of vitamin D suffered fewer falls than those taking lesser doses of the vitamin or a placebo.

“Nursing home residents in the highest vitamin D group (800 IU) had a lower number of fallers and a lower incidence rate of falls over five months than those taking lower doses,” says Kerry E. Broe, M.P.H., lead author of the study, which will appear in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Elderly residents of nursing homes have a high risk of falls and fall-related fractures and are often deficient in vitamin D, which helps keeps bones healthy and strong. Nearly 50 percent of nursing home residents fall at least once each year, and a history of falls is a strong predictor of future falls. Earlier studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation reduces falls anywhere from 23 percent to 53 percent in residents of nursing homes or residential care facilities.

Over the five months of the Marcus Institute study, 59 percent of the participants had at least one fall. Close to 60 percent of those receiving either 200 IU, 400 IU or 600 IU experienced a fall, while only 20 percent receiving 800 IU fell.

The study is indicative of the clinical investigations conducted at Marcus Institute into disabling geriatric conditions, the findings of which can be readily applied to the care of older patients.

 “Ensuring that nursing home residents are receiving adequate daily supplemental vitamin D may reduce the number of falls in elderly nursing home residents,” says Ms. Broe, “and could potentially reduce the risk of fracture in this population.”