According to researchers, a decline in bone density may be associated with a higher risk of dementia.
Low bone density and dementia tend to develop at later age, but the researchers caution that they are unsure of why there may be a connection.
A nutritious diet and regular exercise, according to experts, are two strategies to enhance overall bone health.
A study was published in Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology. People with low bone density may be more likely to develop dementia. 3,651 individuals with an average age of 72 whose medical histories and X-rays were examined by Dutch researchers.
Everybody underwent physical exams, including X-rays and dementia screenings, as well as interviews every four to five years.
Prior to the trial, none of the subjects had dementia. Among the conclusions were:
- Dementia affected 688 people (19%) over an average of 11 years.
- 90 of the 1,211 individuals with the lowest bone density who lived the longest had dementia.
- During a decade, 57 of the 1,211 individuals with the highest bone density had dementia.
The researchers found that those with lower bone density were 42% more likely to develop dementia than those with higher bone density. Even after controlling for age, sex, education, other illnesses, medicinal use, and family history of dementia.
The study only demonstrates a connection, not cause and effect, the researchers noted.
Bone density and dementia
According to the researchers, bone density loss may occur in the early stages of dementia and, if it does, may be a sign of risk.
With that information, healthcare providers may focus on providing earlier and more regular screenings. Also, a better care to those who have bone loss.
The researchers also stated that little was known about a potential connection in the years preceding dementia and that inactivity and poor nutrition. Both of which are present in dementia patients, both cause bone loss, which is accelerated by inactivity.
The majority of the individuals in the study were Europeans over the age of 70. They poses a drawback in that the findings may not be generalizable to other races, ethnicities, and age groups.
Dr. Joel Salinas, is a behavioural neurologist, researcher at NYU Langone Health and the chief medical officer at Isaac Health in New York. He stated that he always believes that additional research is necessary to determine why there may be a relationship.
According to Salinas, “In this scenario, there could be a few reasons why there is an association between dementia and bone loss.”
He listed a few potential explanations:
- These two illnesses have a strong connection to ageing.
- Both disorders may be influenced by inflammation in some way.
- nutrition, diet, and way of life.
Salinas continued, “Improving lifestyle factors like nutrition and activity levels can never be too late. Even if there are already symptoms of cognitive deterioration, putting out a conscious effort in these areas can help prevent the progression of dementia.
Common Bed Partners
In the elderly population, Low bone mineral density (BMD) and dementia frequently co-occur, with bone loss accelerating in dementia patients as a result of inactivity and poor nutrition. It’s unknown, though, how much bone loss already exists before dementia manifests.
The new findings are based on 3651 seniors (mean age 72 years, 58% women). These were dementia-free between 2002 and 2005 and participated in the Rotterdam Study.
Dual-energy radiography absorptiometry (DXA) was used to measure BMD at the femoral neck, lumbar spine, and overall body at that time. The trabecular bone score, which provides additional information like bone microarchitecture, was also calculated. Up to January 1st, 2020, participants were monitored.
Age, sex, education, physical activity, smoking status, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, history of comorbidities (stroke and diabetes), and apolipoprotein E genotype were all taken into account while doing the analyses.
In the 688 people who underwent follow-up who got dementia, the majority (77%), had Alzheimer’s disease.
Preventing bone loss
Dr. Nahid Rianon, a professor of general medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston who was not involved in the study, responded to Medical News Today when asked what would account for the connection between poor bone density and dementia risk:
Although this is a very useful study, it is impossible to determine if low bone density causes dementia, whether dementia causes low bone density, or whether low bone density and dementia share a risk factor.
The findings are significant because each of the three hypotheses has a critical role to play. To prevent both fatal diseases, it is imperative to find out if they share a common cause.
According to Rivadeneyra, “Dementia and bone health are two typical diseases we all struggle with to some extent as we age, so it’s no surprise there would be a correlation.” “We are aware that smoking increases the risk of dementia, low bone density, and cardiorespiratory problems. As we age, alcohol misuse is also linked to weak bones and dementia. Many of these ‘age-related’ diseases we frequently see are caused by heart disease, prolonged pharmaceutical usage (for some medications), injuries and trauma, metabolic issues like thyroid disease or diabetes, and a strong family history (genetics).
Consuming a diet high in calcium and vitamin D is also essential.
Osteoporosis and women
Osteoporosis is a prominent factor in broken bones in older men and postmenopausal women. Although each bone in the body has the potential to fracture, hip, vertebral, and wrist fractures are the most common in older people.
According to Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, “women have a higher risk of osteoporosis and dementia, which could be related to decrease of oestrogen after menopause.”
According to Devi, those who engage in less physical activity—often older adults due to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke—have lower bone density and, thus, are at a greater risk for dementia.
The crucial conclusion, she continued, is that treating low bone density can lower the risk of dementia, fractures, and hospitalisation. “I think that everyone over the age of 50 should get a baseline bone density test because there is a good treatment, either through medication or exercise.”
Study limitations and implications
Dr. Wiggins noted that although other studies have described such relationships, since the majority of the patients in this study were in their 70s and of European heritage, they might not apply to other populations.
We must be careful not to conclude that lower bone density directly causes dementia, he cautioned, since this study merely found a link between bone and brain health.
Board-certified neuropsychologist Dr. Karen D. Sullivan, who runs the Pinehurst, North Carolina-based practise I CARE FOR YOUR BRAIN and was not engaged in the study, said:
The results of this study suggest that dementia may be more likely to strike those with inadequate bone density. According to Dr. Sullivan, this study “adds to the persuasive body of literature that demonstrates that maintaining bone health integrity is a crucial component of successful ageing.
“Evidence-based techniques for enhancing bone health after age 50 include putting a premium on high-quality animal/plant protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, fruits and vegetables high in potassium, fibre, and foods high in calcium and vitamin D having the greatest study backing. In order to maintain strong, healthy bones as we age, frequent weight-loading and resistance exercises are also necessary, the expert concluded.
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