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Osteoporosis Poses Greater Risk of Developing Heart Disease

Osteoporosis can be deadly, it is not known as the ‘silent killer’ for nothing, and at menopause as hormone levels change the bone building benefits of progesterone can be lost. Heart disease is also a major health threat at menopause and they have more in common than you would think.


Norwegian researchers believe they have found a biological system that may influence the disease processes of both osteoporosis and heart disease. This makes a woman more vulnerable to both, and to the increased possibility of a stroke.

Osteoporosis is a common, widespread disease with one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 in the UK breaking a bone. 1.14 million post menopausal woman are diagnosed with osteoporosis and the lifetime risk of fracture in women at age 50 years is greater than the risk of breast cancer or heart disease.

Research findings

A previous study in 2001 by Professor Lone Jørgensen and her colleagues at the University of Tromsø showed that women who had suffered a stroke had much lower bone density than other women of the same age. This led the Professor to look for potential connections between osteoporosis and hardening of the arteries, where fatty material, calcium and connective tissue collect along the walls, and is a common cause of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

The researchers studied data from about 6000 men and women who participated in a special survey in 1994-1995 and 2001-2002, which was part of the comprehensive Tromsø study of cardiovascular diseases. The project ran from 2006 to 2009 and a possible connection found when it appeared that there is a connection between low bone density and the type of atherosclerotic changes that are rich in connective tissue and calcium.

Women who exhibit these changes also have a higher risk of bone fracture, but in many cases, a person may develop osteoporosis and suffer a heart attack for completely different reasons. But there may be a causal relationship between the diseases. Data from several research groups now indicate that a biological system involving osteoprotegerin (OPG), among other things, may be a common denominator.

The study found that bone loss is linked to a high level of OPG in post-menopausal women and that having a high level of OPG also predicts the development of atherosclerosis in women,

Help for osteopenia and osteoporosis

The total number of women prescribed medication for osteoporosis in the UK is approximately 480,000, but these medications such as but many women choose not to take them as they be unpleasant in their side effects and administration often with digestive problems. There are also the potential health problems with alendronic acid and drugs such as Fosamax. These can include oesophageal ulceration and an increased risk of arterial fibrillation.

Happily there is an alternative, as using bioidentical hormones can help – particularly progesterone. Our bones continue to be replaced throughout our lives and two hormones are at work: oestrogen which helps clear out old bone and progesterone which helps build the new replacement bone. Progesterone levels drop at menopause so any family vulnerability to osteoporosis will be helped by supplementing to encourage strong, new bone.

Other factors are also helpful such as weight bearing exercise and a healthy diet which contains the nutrients that assist bone building such as calcium, vitamins D3 K2, zinc and boron.