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Bone Health Linked to Brain Health

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Osteoporosis and dementia are two conditions of great concern to many people as they age. And now, new research published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, has found that the two may be linked. Specifically, researchers found that people with low bone density have a greater risk of developing dementia than those with higher bone density.

The Study

Researchers from the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands followed 3,651 people with an average age of 72 who did not have dementia at the start of the study. The scientists examined X-rays to identify bone density and interviewed participants every four to five years, performing physical tests such as bone scans and assessments for dementia.

Of the 1,211 participants with the lowest total body bone density, 90 developed dementia within 10 years, compared to 57 of the 1,211 participants with the highest bone density. After adjusting for factors such as age, sex, education, other illnesses, family history, and medication use, the researchers found that within 10 years, study participants with the lowest total body bone density were 42% more likely to develop dementia than participants in the highest group.

“Low bone density and dementia are two conditions that commonly affect older people simultaneously, especially as bone loss often increases due to physical inactivity and poor nutrition during dementia,” says study author Mohammad Arfan Ikram, MD, PhD. “However, little is known about bone loss that occurs in the period leading up to dementia. Our study found that bone loss indeed already occurs before dementia and thus is linked to a higher risk of dementia.”


The researchers are quick to point out that while the study found a link between low bone density and dementia risk, that doesn’t mean low bone density causes dementia.

“Our research has found a link between bone loss and dementia, but further studies are needed to better understand this connection,” says Ikram. “It’s possible that bone loss may occur already in the earliest phases of dementia, years before any clinical symptoms manifest themselves. If that were the case, bone loss could be an indicator of risk for dementia, and people with bone loss could be targeted for screening and improved care.”

Researchers also noted that one limitation of the study is that participants were primarily of European origin and age 70 or older at the start of the study, so these findings may vary in different races, ethnicities, and younger age groups.




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