We live and breathe research studies.
My team scours journals to find the latest scientific studies and reports. Our goal is to provide you with the best information possible so you can make informed decisions about your health.
That's why an article we recently read left us in shock.
It's a topic that means breaking news for the medical community... but we've seen little media attention. And it's an alert from one of the major watchdogs in health care.
In other words, what we're about to tell you will change what your doctor has said for years...
Longtime readers know I respect the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). These folks take long, hard looks at all of the evidence available for certain procedures and recommendations. They write guidelines that any doctor worth his salt will follow (you might remember my researcher's doctor has them hung up in his exam room).
Last month, the USPSTF released a new guideline for vitamin D supplements. They now recommend against taking vitamin D supplements to prevent falls.
What's more, there's insufficient evidence to prove that vitamin D and calcium supplements prevent fractures. That means there's a lack of good quality studies proving these supplements prevent fractures.
So those calcium and vitamin D pills you're taking probably aren't helping at all. In fact, they may cause more harm as too much calcium builds up in your kidneys, causing kidney stones.
A lot of older folks take vitamin D with calcium to keep their bones healthy. The reason for this is that falls are common in seniors, with about one in four folks age 65 and older falling each year. And we also see more than 2 million fractures each year, with that number growing to 3 million by 2025. Up to 30% of folks who fracture a hip will die within a year. In fact, one senior dies from a fall every 19 minutes, according to the National Council on Aging.
The USPSTF ended its finding with one caveat: The new guidelines don't apply to folks with a history of fractures, those at a higher risk of falling, or a diagnosis of osteoporosis. But given the high number of folks taking these pills (about 1 in 20 Americans take calcium supplements), we're sure this applies to plenty of our readers.
So, what does the USPSTF recommend for preventing falls and fractures? It turns out, it recommends what we've been saying for years... Exercise.
Exercise – both for balance and strength – is a great way to help prevent falls and keep your bones healthy.
A good way to safely work on balance and coordination is an exercise called tai chi. Tai chi focuses your breathing and takes you through a series of movements that you can do at your own pace. It builds balance and coordination. It keeps your body in motion and is safe for most people, including those 65 and older. It's also an effective stress-buster.
Researchers from University of Jaén in Spain evaluated 10 studies involving seniors and at-home interventions for falls.
Within a one-year follow-up period, those who practiced tai chi saw a 43% reduction in falls when compared to things like regular exercise and physical therapy.
Weight-bearing exercise helps keep our bones healthy, so our risk of fracture is lower. As we mentioned in our essay about joint pain, research from the University of Missouri found that running and high-impact training in general helps build strong bones and fight osteoporosis. Stronger bones help keep you steady and lower the risk of fracture should you fall.
And another study from American Family Physician Journal introduced simple weight-bearing exercise to folks in various retirement villages. These simple exercises improved walking distance and an overall drop in number of falls compared with the control group.
And keep in mind, you don't just need calcium for strong bones. But taking calcium alone won't help you. Calcium needs vitamin D to help your body absorb it.
Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorus. These chemicals in turn help regulate bone formation and resorption (the process where the body makes and breaks down bone). The connection between bone health and sunlight is obvious. Some researchers think the reason bone fractures are so common in the elderly is due to decreased exposure to sunlight inside nursing homes and hospitals. I agree.
You also need vitamins C, E, and K, as well as magnesium and boron to help absorb calcium and build bone. Don't fall for the "one and done" thinking that calcium is all it takes...
So, increase your intake of calcium-rich foods, but also foods high in vitamins C, E, K and magnesium and boron. Almonds, spinach, bananas, chard, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, honey, raisins, fish, berries, and Brussels sprouts are all great additions to your diet to get these needed nutrients. Spend more time in the sun for your vitamin D and try balance and strength-building exercises today. You'll keep your bones and overall health in good shape.
What We're Reading...
- Did you miss it? Our write up on fall prevention.
- Something different: Grow your own ear replacement (warning, not for the faint-of-heart).
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 15, 2018