“We have long known that heart disease and osteoporosis have similar risk factors, but this is the first study to examine the relationship between heart attack survivors and low bone mineral density,” says Magnus. Cigarette smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition are risk factors common to both chronic conditions. “According to our data, people who reported a previous heart attack were more likely to have low bone mineral density than those who did not report a heart attack, but when examining this association separately for men and women it was only significant for men.”
Magnus analyzed data from 5,050 men and women 50 to 79 years old who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1988 and 1994. In addition to the increased risk of bone density loss after a heart attack, the researchers found that cigarette smoking, lack of physical activity and being overweight were all predictive of bone density loss in men.
“We recommend that men who survive heart attacks be screened for bone density loss,” says Magnus. There is currently no recommendation to screen men for osteoporosis. Loss of bone density is a normal part of aging, but excessive loss puts people at risk of bone fractures and further disability.