Low Bone Density and Dementia Risk

A review of

Association of Bone Mineral Density and Dementia: The Rotterdam Study

Is there a link between bone mineral density and dementia risk? A recent study from Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, looked into this connection.

As the study explains, people with dementia frequently have lower bone density than people of the same age in the general population. This may be for a number of different reasons, including because dementia often makes having a regular exercise routine difficult. While people with dementia often have low bone density, it is unclear how much of that bone loss happens before the onset of dementia, and if there is a connection between brain and bone health that we have yet to explore. Because fracturing a bones can lead to a loss of independence—especially for people with dementia—the authors were particularly interested in learning more about this connection.

In this study, the bone density of over 3,500 adults (age 45+) without dementia was measured through DXA scans. Over the next 15-18 years, the care of these adults was followed. During that time, around 20% developed dementia. The authors found that from that data, the risk of developing dementia was greatest for people who had lower bone density. Specifically, this study's data showed that overall low bone density and low density in the hip joint (femoral neck) was an indicator for dementia risk. As the authors mentioned, low hip joint bone density was the strongest indicator, and has been an indicator of dementia risk in several previous studies as well. In contrast to previous studies, this one suggests that low bone density increases dementia risk for males, but not females.

You might be wondering, why would bone and brain health be linked? Why would dementia risk be affected by low bone density? While this research was not specifically focused on the biological connection between the brain and bones, the authors did give a few potential reasons. They indicated that there are certain ways the cells and proteins in our body interact similarly in both low bone density and dementia, and that those interactions could link osteoporosis and dementia.

What are the takeaways? While there is a correlation between dementia risk and low bone density, there are certain things that you can do to protect your bone health—nutritious food, regular exercise and medication if indicated by your doctor. Whether or not your family has a history of dementia or osteoporosis, a healthy lifestyle can be important for your brain, your bones, and everything else.

Check out the complete study for more details:
Association of Bone Mineral Density and Dementia: The Rotterdam Study
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