Low bone mineral density increases risks of heart attacks, as well as osteoporosis

It is commonly accepted that having a low bone mineral density (BMD) increases the likelihood of osteoporosis, but new research indicates that this skeletal deficiency can also boost the risk of heart attacks for both genders.

A study published in the journal Osteoporosis International (OI) found that each standard deviation decrease in BMD resulted in a 33 percent increase in the risk of myocardial infarction (MI) among women.

For men, the effect was even more extreme. The researchers, who hail from Sweden's Umea University, revealed that each standard deviation decrease in male BMD elevated the risk of MI by 75 percent.

Even after taking smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes into account, this phenomenon remained significant, the team said. They added that while previous studies have investigated the connection between osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, theirs is the first to specifically link the bone disease to MI.

Also known as a heart attack, an MI occurs when plaque or a blood clot obstructs one or more of the arteries feeding the heart.

The study's authors were careful to specify that osteoporosis does not necessarily cause MIs, or vice versa. Rather, the two conditions share a number of risk factors, which might make a person who suffers from one more likely to experience the other.

Another study, published in the same month, came to similar conclusions, though from the opposite direction. A report appearing in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure (CHF) found that 12 percent of heart failure patients had vertebral pressure fractures, most of which were previously undiagnosed.

Researchers noted that among participants who were found to have osteoporosis-related spinal fractures, just 15 percent were taking any sort of medication to treat progressive bone loss.

The authors of the OI study did not propose any causal connection between osteoporosis and MI. However, those who wrote the CHF report hypothesized that high levels of aldosterone, a hormone that controls blood pressure and electrolyte levels, could explain the overlapping incidence of pressure fractures and heart failure.
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