What Does Osteoporosis Have to Do With Dementia?

Sherry Christiansen
By Sherry ChristiansenDecember 3, 2018

A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease is taking a look at the impact that osteoporosis has on the risk of dementia.

Learn more about the 54 million Americans that have been diagnosed with the condition and how it is associated with a 1.2-fold increase in the risk of the disease.

Conditions That Increase the Risk of Osteoporosis

If you, a parent or senior loved one are 50 or older, you may be concerned about osteoporosis, which is a common bone disease.

The condition occurs when the body:

  1. Loses too much bone density.
  2. Makes too little bone tissue.
  3. Both A and B.

The result of the scenario is that the bone becomes weak and may break easily from a bump or fall.

The hip, spine and wrist are the areas of the body most commonly impacted by osteoporosis; but, other bones can be affected as well.  As the disease progresses, it can cause a person to lose inches in height if the bones in the spinal column are affected. This can result in a pronounced hunched over posture.

There are many health conditions, as well as some medical procedures, that can increase the risk of osteoporosis. If you or a loved one has any of the following conditions, and are over 50 years of age, it’s advisable to ask your health care provider to do a bone density test, to screen for:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema
  • Digestive and gastrointestinal disorders
  • Endocrine and hormonal disorders
  • Liver disease, including biliary cirrhosis
  • Mental illness
  • Neurological and nervous system disorders
  • Organ transplants
  • Polio and post-polio syndrome
  • Poor diet, including malnutrition
  • Scoliosis
  • Weight loss

Study: Osteoporosis Associated With an Increased Risk of Dementia

In Germany, the prevalence of osteoporosis among people over 50 years of age is approximately 15%. Researchers in Frankfurt have been studying its impact on cognitive decline and dementia in recent decades and the current study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, evaluated 60,000 patients who were diagnosed with osteoporosis for up to 20 years.

Lead study investigator, Professor Karel Kostev, from the Epidemiology Team of IQVIA, Frankfurt, Germany says, “There is a big interest in the relationship between osteoporosis and dementia. This study is the first to address this question in a very large database, enabling the case-control-comparison between patients with and without the condition.”

After 20 years, the data indicated that 20.5% of women with osteoporosis and 16.4% of the control group (the women without the condition) were diagnosed with dementia. In the group of men, 22% were diagnosed with dementia and only 14.9% of the control group had dementia.

Overall, osteoporosis was associated with a 1.2-fold increase in the risk of dementia diagnosis in women and a 1.3-fold increase in men.

The co-author of the study, Louis Jacob, MD, from the University Clinic of Paris, states, “The major hypothesis to explain the association between osteoporosis and dementia is that these two conditions have similar risk factors. These factors include APOE4 allele of the apolipoprotein E, [genetic factors] a major cholesterol carrier, lower vitamin K levels, vitamin D deficiency, but also androgens and estrogens [male and female hormones].”

The study had a few limitations in its findings. For example, there was no information on the bone density or lifestyle factors of the study subjects.

But the research is compelling due to the length and the number of study subjects involved and the evidence is strong enough to surmise that there may, in fact, be a link between the condition and the disease.

Have you, a parent or senior loved one had osteoporosis and then later been diagnosed with dementia? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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Sherry Christiansen

Sherry Christiansen

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