19 Apr 2013 | Reducing Harm from Falls
It’s now well known that of all the vitamins, Vitamin D is one of the most important for people aged 65 and over. Without it, our bones can deteriorate and lead to more fall-related injuries as we are more prone to broken bones.
As part of April Falls month, the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) is putting the spotlight on Vitamin D, how it can help to reduce harm from falls, what the risks are for those who don’t get enough and the best sources of Vitamin D.
“Vitamin D plays a key role in bone health by helping our bodies absorb and use calcium,” says WDHB acting chief medical officer Dr Frank Rawlinson. “And those of us who don’t get enough Vitamin D increase our risk of osteoporosis or other bone-weakening diseases, as well as more serious harm if we fall.”
It’s difficult to reach acceptable levels of Vitamin D through food. However, a healthy person’s body can make all the Vitamin D they need with sufficient exposure to ultraviolet light, therefore anyone who has reduced exposure to sunlight is at risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
“Avoiding sun burn to prevent skin cancer is very important however, our bodies still require some sun to maintain our health,” Dr Rawlinson says. “For those who are able, physical activity outdoors should always be encouraged.
“Unless there is a medical reason for not doing so, we should all aim to get outside for about twenty minutes a day - even if it’s just with our face and the backs of our hands exposed.”
Those at high risk of Vitamin D deficiency include:
Dr Rawlinson says the ability to make Vitamin D decreases with age so, since 2008 Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), with support from DHBs and primary health organisations, has been delivering a programme that offers Vitamin D tablets to rest home residents. This has helped reduce fall-related injuries.
Dr Rawlinson says anyone with concerns as to whether or not they might be Vitamin D deficient should talk to their doctor to discuss whether taking a Vitamin D tablet may be appropriate.