Suffering a hip fracture is often a death sentence for older adults. In fact, men and women over the age of 50 who suffer a hip fracture have a five-to-eight times higher risk of dying within just three months compared to their peers who don’t suffer the same injury. And that higher mortality risk persists for almost 10 years after the fracture!
Fortunately, a new study has found that a simple vitamin regimen can significantly improve recovery following a hip fracture. (Plus, other studies show this vitamin even helps prevent factures and falls from happening in the first place!)
I’ll tell you all about that important research in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at what often leads up to a hip fracture in older adults…
Common risk factors for hip fractures
Polypharmacy (taking multiple drugs at one time) is a major cause of fainting, falls, and bone fractures in older people.
Likewise, even taking just one drug at too high of a dose can also lead to fractures. For example, many drugs to treat high blood pressure and Type II diabetes—especially the newer, more costly ones—are just too potent. And doctors fail to adjust doses or discontinue them altogether, as patients get older. As a result, patients can develop low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and low blood pressure (hypotension)—causing a fall and fracture.
Plus, as I explained recently, studies show older adults do far better with moderately higher than “normal” blood sugar and blood pressure. It turns out, keeping these numbers moderately higher helps push energy, oxygen, and other nutrients to the aging brain and other tissues.
Of course, osteoporosis (low bone density) is a third common cause of fractures—especially hip fractures—in older adults. And the injury usually occurs in a way that you might not expect…
In fact, when osteoporosis is the cause of a hip fracture, typically, the bone breaks first and then the person falls.
(And it really doesn’t help that furniture is so poorly designed that it sets people up for breaks and falls when they try to sit down or standup. I even remember former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop raised concerns about the problem with poorly designed furniture and falls back in the 1980s. Furniture makers tend to prioritize appearance over function, safety, and ergonomics.)
Plus, the drugs prescribed to treat osteoporosis also pose serious problems…
They build new bone on top of old, dead bone. So, in scans, it may look like the bones are strong, but they they’re actually more brittle.
Which is why, instead of relying on these bad drugs to protect your bone health, I’ve always urged you to focus on improving your nutritional status…
Osteoporosis caused by complex nutritional deficiencies
We now know osteoporosis strongly relates to inadequate levels of vitamin D, vitamin C, and other minerals like boron, magnesium, selenium, and silica. (Just remember you should always get your calcium from your diet, not from supplements.)
And researchers have recently begun to zero in on vitamin D, specifically. In fact, the new study that I mentioned at the beginning of this Dispatch looked at the association between vitamin D blood levels and recovery in 290 patients who underwent hip fractures.
Specifically, the researchers wanted to see if there was a relationship between patients’ vitamin D levels and their ability to walk well after surgery. And this was a great area to focus on, as a strong gait (the ability to walk well) is the single, strongest predictor of longevity.
The study’s lead author summed it up when he said, “Hip fractures are associated with a high rate of morbidity and mortality and successful ambulation [walking] after surgery is an important outcome in this patient population.”
For this study, the researchers found that men and women with vitamin D levels higher than 12 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) had higher unassisted walking rates at 30 days and improved mobility at 60 days compared to those with lower levels. Poor nutritional status was also associated with decreased mobility. (Yet another reason I always recommend a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh, whole foods—like the Mediterranean-style diet.)
And these findings make a lot of sense. For one, we know vitamin D directly affects bone heath. We also know it affects the brain, muscles, and other organ systems—all of which are important for a strong gait.
Now, here’s the one place where the researchers in this study went wrong…
Expecting miracles from too low of a dose
In their conclusion, the researchers cited prior research showing that people should take 800 IU per day of vitamin D to prevents falls and fractures. They also cited an old, flawed study that claimed taking 4,000 IU per day was no better than taking 600 IU per day.
But I debunked that claim last year in the December 2019 issue of my Insiders’ Cures monthly newsletter (“Debunking the latest ‘fake news’ about vitamin D”).
Plus, there are a wealth of other studies that show the many benefits of taking vitamin D at higher doses each day.
Which is why I’m sticking with my recommendation of taking 10,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Especially if you’re older than 50 and at risk for suffering a hip fracture.
Remember, the use of IU (international units) can make that dose sound high. But it’s just 250 micrograms…which is less than one-thousandth of the doses we take of just about anything else!
Not yet convinced? Well, you can learn about the many other benefits of taking vitamin D—including less back pain and improved longevity—in the June 2020 issue of my Insiders’ Cures monthly newsletter (“The natural ‘cure all’ everyone should be taking”). If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one.
“Excess Mortality After Hip Fracture in Elderly Persons From Europe and the USA: The CHANCES Project.” J Intern Med 2017 March; 281(3):300-310. doi.org/ 10.1111/joim.12586.
“Meta-analysis: Excess Mortality After Hip Fracture Among Older Women and Men.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition March 19, 2010. 152(6): 380-390. doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-152-6-201003160-00008