Being Deficient in This Vitamin Makes You More Likely to Suffer a Fall, CDC Says

Falls are a leading cause of death for people over 65.

Vitamins are crucial to helping your body function the way it should. In fact, your body can't live without 13 essential vitamins. Yet of all the many ways your body can suffer if you fail to get these vitamins in adequate quantities, one consequence of a particular vitamin deficiency may surprise you. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say this deficiency can make you more likely to suffer a fall—especially if you're over the age of 65. Read on to learn which vitamin deficiency could trigger a serious injury, and how you can reduce your risk.

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Falls can have serious consequences.

Man in hospital bed sleeping

In middle age, the threat of a fall may not seem all that daunting. But later in life, falls can cause serious problems. According to the CDC, over 34,000 adults over the age of 65 died from falls in 2019, making it the number one cause of injury death among seniors. That same year, over three million seniors sought medical care in emergency rooms for injuries due to a fall.

Many falls result in broken bones, accounting for over 95 percent of all hip fractures. Seniors who suffer these types of injuries may subsequently experience limited mobility, which can have broader implications for their physical and mental wellbeing.

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Being deficient in this vitamin makes you more likely to fall.

A man pouring out vitamin capsules from a white bottle into his hand.

Few people associate vitamin intake with the risk of falling, but a 2017 report from the CDC lists vitamin D deficiency as a common risk factor for this type of accident.

A 2016 study published in the International Journal of General Medicine (IJGM) explains how this particular vitamin deficiency can lead to heightened fall risk: "Vitamin D is known to exert a wide range of effects in our bodies, including those relating to musculoskeletal development and sustenance," the study states. "Receptors are present in muscle tissues and bones, hence explaining the myopathy, muscle weakness, and muscle pains associated with vitamin D deficiency. Having low levels of vitamin D also decreases the bone mineral density and the strength of the bones, hence, increasing the chances of instability on mobility and increasing the chances of falls," the research team adds.

Many people are deficient in vitamin D.

Senior woman with short gray hair talking to white male senior doctor, empty nest

Vitamin D deficiencies are surprisingly common, according to the Cleveland Clinic. They say roughly 35 percent of adults in the U.S. are living with a vitamin D deficiency, they say.

However, adults over 65 are at an even greater risk. "Vitamin D deficiency is common in elderly population due to various risk factors, including decreased dietary intake, diminished sunlight exposure, reduced skin thickness, impaired intestinal absorption, and impaired hydroxylation in the liver and kidneys," explains the IJGM study. "Vitamin D supplementation is a fairly easy and cost-effective intervention that may result in or potentiate positive outcomes, regarding fall prevention," they note.

However, as with most vitamins and nutrients, it's best to get vitamin D through your diet and other natural sources. You can increase your vitamin D levels by eating foods that contain vitamin D, such as fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks, and fortified cereals, or spending more time in the sun.

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These other risk factors can also make a fall more likely.

Elderly woman fallen, people helping

While having a vitamin D deficiency can contribute to one's fall risk, it's unlikely to be the sole cause of a tumble. "Most falls are caused by the interaction of multiple risk factors," explains the CDC, adding that the more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances are of falling.

Addressing your full range of modifiable risk factors is the best way to mitigate your fall risk. This may include treating balance or muscle disorders, reviewing your medications for possible side effects or drug interactions, having your vision checked, removing home hazards, practicing strengthening exercises, and managing blood pressure.

Speak with your doctor to learn more about how to lower your risk of a serious fall.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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