Older Adults Need to Make Sure They Get Enough Vitamin K

by Dorian Martin Patient Advocate

Got K? No, not cereal. I mean vitamin K. This vitamin is really important, especially if you're an older adult.

Vitamin K helps you stay healthy in numerous ways. First of all, it is a critical nutrient in helping your blood clot normally and helps prevent calcification of your arteries.
It also is believed to protect against liver and prostate cancer. And vitamin K has one other benefit - it helps protect you from bone loss and fractures.

Here's some evidence courtesy of the Wall Street Journal for you of the latter claim for you. A new study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that older adults who had low levels of vitamin K were 56 percent more likely to develop osteoarthritis in their knees than people who had normal levels of this vitamin. This two-year study involved 1,180 people who were an average of 62 and lived in either Alabama or Iowa. Almost two-thirds of the study participants were women.

Researchers looked at the participants' blood levels of vitamin K. In addition, the study participants had MRI scans and X-rays of both knees at the start of the study and then again 30 months later.

At the start of the study, nine percent of the participants were found to be deficient in vitamin K, even though they didn't show any symptoms of bleeding. Furthermore, 1,340 knees did not shown signs of osteoarthritis. When the participants were looked at again 30 months later, the researchers found that 15 percent of the healthy knees had developed osteoarthritis. Furthermore, two had to be surgically replaced with artificial joints.

The analysis also found that a deficiency in vitamin K made a difference. Of the participants who were deficient in vitamin K, 21 percent developed osteoarthritis while 14 percent of people with sufficient vitamin K had this condition. Furthermore, researchers found that people who did not have enough of this vitamin had a significantly greater risk of cartilage defects.

While these findings may be caused to an unhealthy lifestyle that wasn't measured, it still is a good idea to make sure you get enough vitamin K. How do you know if you're not getting enough? The George Mateljan Foundation points to four signs to watch for:

  • Excessive bleeding, which includes nose bleeding, bleeding within the digestive tract, bleeding from the gums, and heavy menstrual bleeding.

  • Bruising easily.

  • Having issues with calcification of the blood vessels or heart valves.

  • Having bone weakening or suffering a bone fracture.

So what are the best sources of vitamin K? The George Matlejan Foundation says excellent sources include parsley, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, thyme, romaine lettuce, sage, oregano, cabbage, celery, sea vegetables, cucumber, leeks, cauliflower, tomatoes and blueberries.
The Chicago Tribune also adds several items to this list, including blackberries, tuna that has been canned in oil, avocado, prunes, green leaf lettuce and endive. Other very good sources of this vitamin are bell peppers, cloves, black pepper, raspberries, grapes and carrots. Good sources of this vitamin include soybeans, avocado, kidney beans, winter squash, pear, papaya, miso, plum, cantaloupe, summer squash, strawberries, cayenne pepper, eggplant and cranberries.

The recommended amount to try to get daily is 90 mcg for women and 120 mcg for men. However, you do need to be careful about your intake of this vitamin if you're taking blood-thinning medications. Talk to your health care provider to determine the correct amount that you need. Also, try to maintain a consistent level of vitamin K in the diet and avoid abrupt increases and decreases in food sources.

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Chicago Tribune. (2013). Protect your bones with Vitamin K.

George Mateljan Foundation. (nd). Vitamin K.

Lukits, A. (2013). The research report: Why young children don't notice coming cars. Wall Street Journal.

Dorian Martin
Meet Our Writer
Dorian Martin

Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.