The risk of falling faced by old people aged 65 and over gets reduced by exercising and taking supplements of Vitamin D, according to a review of over 50 clinical trials.
A researcher at the Drexel University School of Public Health worked with colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research to conduct the study.
"Our evidence review shows that exercise and Vitamin D supplementation are the most effective primary care interventions to prevent falls," Newswise quoted Yvonne L. Michael, an associate professor at the Drexel University School of Public Health and lead review author of the report, as saying.
"This is important news because falls are extremely common in this population and they are the leading cause of death and injury for the elderly. We need to help primary care clinicians find better ways to prevent falls, and this review will help to do that."
Michael and her colleagues evaluated 18 clinical trials of exercise and physical therapy involving nearly 4,000 people who were aged 65 or older. Some of the trials involved group exercise or Thai Chi classes; others involved individualized exercise instruction at home.
There were a variety of exercises included but most were aimed at improving gait, balance, strength and flexibility needed to do everyday activities. The interventions ranged from six weeks to 12 months or longer and the evaluation periods lasted up to 18 months after the programs ended.
When taken individually most of these trials showed no statistical difference, but when the results were pooled together the exercisers had a 13 percent lower risk of falling compared to those who did not exercise.
For the review of Vitamin D supplementation researchers evaluated nine clinical trials involving nearly 6,000 participants who received daily oral doses of Vitamin D with or without calcium. The dosage ranged from 10 to 1,000 IU's per day, in one trial participants received a larger single intramuscular injection of 600,000 IU's of Vitamin D. The trials lasted from eight weeks to three years. Follow up periods ranged from six to 36 months.
Participants who received Vitamin D had a 17 percent reduced risk of falling, compared to participants who did not receive Vitamin D.
The study has been published in the issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.