Women who have thin, brittle bones are more likely to develop heart disease later in life, according to a new study from researchers at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital. A team of rheumatologists examined data from women ages 50 through 80 between the years of 2005 and 2014. They found that women who develop osteoporosis, which is the term used to describe a brittle bone disease, after menopause may be at a heightened risk for developing heart disease due to clogged arteries.
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Health experts say that 21 percent of women are at risk of cardiovascular death, compared to only 15 percent of men. Women who have thin or weakened bones at the lumbar spine, femoral neck, and hip were each associated with a heightened risk of heart attack or stroke by 16 percent to 38 percent, according to the study. Other factors that researchers considered included age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and a previous bone break.
"Considering that [DXA scanning] is widely used to screen for osteopenia and osteoporosis in asymptomatic women, the significant association between [bone mineral density] and higher risk of [cardiovascular disease] provides an opportunity for large-scale risk assessment in women without additional cost and radiation exposure," said the team of researchers in a statement. This particular study was just based on previously collected data and does not establish cause, but does demonstrate a correlation. Earlier research indicated that women with osteoporosis often have atherosclerosis, which is an artery disease caused by a build-up of cholesterol, suggesting that there may be a link between these two conditions.
More research is needed to help women learn how to live their healthiest lives. "Perhaps it is high time to establish how bone health affects vasculature and understand the underlying pathophysiology that links osteoporotic and atherosclerotic conditions. In doing so, we might just discover new ways to improve the treatment of, and care for, the hearts and minds of women, as well as of men," says Dr. Dexter Canoy and Dr. Kazem Rahimi of the Nuffield Department of Women's and Reproductive Health at the University of Oxford. Dr. Canoy and Dr. Rahimi were not involved with this study.