Higher Bone Density Linked to Lower Cardiovascular Risk in Women

Having a greater bone mineral density is linked to a lower risk for cardiovascular events like a heart attack or stroke in women, according to a new study published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.

Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis (weakened, porous bones) are often seen together, and some scientists believe that the metabolic abnormalities seen in type 2 diabetes may contribute to the risk for lower bone density and osteoporosis. There is evidence that the incidence of bone fractures is rising in people with diabetes, indicating that it’s especially important to recognize and treat osteoporosis in this group. The good news is that researchers have been looking at the best ways to treat diabetes and osteoporosis together, with a report on the topic issued a few years ago.

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For the latest study, researchers looked at a group of 13,707 women who were enrolled in a general health study called the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The average ago of these women was 46.5, as noted in a Healio article on the study. Participants had their bone mineral density measured as part of the study, and self-reported events like bone fractures and cardiovascular events as part of the study’s follow-up questions. Five different cardiovascular outcomes were included in the analysis — congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease (CAD), angina (chest pain from cardiovascular causes), heart attack, and stroke.

Higher bone density linked to lower cardiovascular disease

Overall, 7.5% of participants reported having some form of cardiovascular disease. When comparing the relationship between measured bone density and cardiovascular problems, the researchers observed an “inflection point” when it came to bone density — participants with a total bone mineral density of 1.085 grams per square centimeter or greater were less likely to experience these outcomes, with the risk dropping even lower at higher levels of bone density. This cutoff point represented the bone density of the top 50% of participants in the study. Compared with the bottom 25% of participants — those with a total bone mineral density of 1.009 or lower — those in the top 50% for bone density were less likely to experience angina or to have a heart attack or stroke.

What’s more, participants who had never had a bone fracture were 31% less likely to experience angina, 32% less likely to have a heart attack, and 32% less likely to have a stroke than those with at least one previous fracture. The relationship between greater bone density and a lower risk for cardiovascular outcomes was seen more strongly in women who identified as non-Hispanic white, didn’t have high blood pressure, didn’t have diabetes, and never participated in physical activity.

The researchers concluded that higher bone density and a lack of bone fractures were both linked to improved cardiovascular outcomes, but didn’t demonstrate that bone density played a direct role in these outcomes. More research may shed light on how bone density and cardiovascular disease are related, and whether any treatments for osteoporosis are linked to differences in cardiovascular outcomes.

Want to learn more about protecting your heart? Read “Be Heart Smart: Know Your Numbers,” “Does Diabetes Hurt Your Heart?” “Fight Off Heart Disease With These Five Heart-Healthy Foods” and “Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease.”

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