In a new study from Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, researchers found thin and brittle bones are strongly linked to women’s heart disease risk, with thinning of the lower (lumbar) spine, top of the thigh bone (femoral neck), and hip especially predictive of a higher heart attack and stroke risk.
Osteoporosis, often dubbed brittle bone disease, is common, particularly among women after menopause. It is characterized by thinning and weakened bones and heightened fracture risk.
Previously research indicates that people with osteoporosis often have atherosclerosis (artery hardening and narrowing), suggesting that both conditions may be linked.
Millions of women are screened for osteoporosis using a DXA scan, so this assessment might provide an ideal opportunity to identify any potential link between thinning bones and atherosclerosis.
In the study, the team reviewed the medical records of 50-80 year old women who had had a DXA scan to check for osteoporosis.
The final analysis included 12,681 women whose health was tracked for an average of 9 years, using national registry data.
In all, 468 women (around 4%) had a heart attack or stroke during the monitoring period. Some 237 (2%) died.
Thinning/weakened bones, expressed as a low bone mineral density score at the lumbar spine, femoral neck, and hip, were linked to a heightened (16% to 38%) risk of heart attack or stroke.
And a formal diagnosis of osteoporosis was also independently linked to a 79% higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
The team says it’s not clear exactly how osteoporosis and atherosclerosis might be linked, but long-term inflammation and cumulative oxidative stress have key roles in both age-related bone loss and atherosclerosis, while sex hormones, particularly estrogen, help regulate bone turnover and the vascular system.
Considering that [DXA scanning] is widely used to screen for osteopenia and osteoporosis in asymptomatic women, the strong link between bone mineral density and higher risk of heart disease provides an opportunity for large-scale risk assessment in women without additional cost and radiation exposure.
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The study is published in Heart. One author of the study is Jiesuck Park.
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