Beware of falls as the weather turns colder
September 03, 2012
Volume 2 | Issue 69
I hope you’re having a great Labor Day weekend!
Today marks the unofficial end of summer. Did you know this means your risk of falling begins to go up significantly? It’s true! As the weather turns colder, research shows that the number of people suffering from a fall and the subsequent injuries goes up. This is especially true for older women. Fortunately, another study shows there’s something you can begin to do now that can help.
In the first study, researchers followed 761 people who were 70 years old and older. They found that the rate of falls in winter went up for women, but not for men. The rate increased substantially when the temperature fell into the 30-degree range.
This makes a lot of sense, as muscles and tissues tend to be tighter and less flexible in the colder weather. These temperatures also bring ice, snow, sleet, and freezing rain – all of which are highly conducive to slipping and falling.
The big question is, “Why are women more likely to fall in the cold than men?” No one knows for sure, but it’s possible the reason is hormonal. The colder months increase your body’s need for thyroid hormone. The condition is so common, many doctors regularly increase thyroid hormone dosages during the winter months. Since women are at a higher risk for thyroid problems, their bodies may not adjust well to the higher demand. So they could become hypothyroid in colder months without even knowing it.
The thyroid regulates your metabolism. If you become hypothyroid in the colder months, your metabolism will drop, your muscles won’t respond as quickly, and your risk of falling will go up. Plus, you won’t be able to respond to slick conditions as nimbly as you normally would.
However, the second study I mentioned above gives another reason why your risk of falls goes up in the winter. But more importantly, it gives an easy and inexpensive way to fix the problem.
In this study, researchers found that elderly women (aged 70-90) had lower muscle strength when their vitamin D levels were below 24 ng/mL. When they took vitamin D supplements, it improved their muscle strength.
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As the days grow shorter, your body’s vitamin D levels will naturally drop. This study shows that lower levels of this critical nutrient have a dramatic impact on your muscle strength and your mobility. Obviously, this would increase your risk of falling.
We know that exposure to sunlight has a dramatic effect on your hormone levels (including thyroid and vitamin D, which is a hormone). This could explain why women are more susceptible to falls in the winter. Fortunately, taking vitamin D daily can help both of these problems. I’ll explain this more in Saturday’s alert.
In the meantime, make sure you’re taking ample vitamin D now so you don’t become deficient in the winter months. Most people who are deficient need to take 5,000 IU daily. You can buy a high-quality vitamin D by following this link.
Your Insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.
J Am Geriatr Soc, 2010; 58(11).