A recent study by researchers at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital on the link between brittle bones and heart disease in women, has served as a catalyst for further research into how to optimise women's health.
Their research revealed a higher risk of a cardiovascular death in women (21%) than in men (15%) and the predictive risk framework for heart disease is skewed towards men, so factors that better identify women at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke are needed.
Millions of women are screened for osteoporosis using a DXA scan, so this assessment might provide an ideal opportunity to identify any potential associations between thinning bones and atherosclerosis, and those women most at risk of heart disease, without incurring any additional costs or further exposure to radiation, they add.
To test this out, the researchers reviewed the medical records of 50–80 year old women who had had a DXA scan to check for osteoporosis at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital between 2005 and 2014.
After excluding those who already had heart disease and other serious illness at the time of the scan, the final analysis included 12,681 women whose health was tracked for an average of 9 years, using national registry data.
In all, 468 women (around 4%) had a heart attack or stroke during the monitoring period. Some 237 (2%) died.
They commented: “Considering that DXA scanning is widely used to screen for osteopenia and osteoporosis in asymptomatic women, the significant association between bone mineral density and higher risk of cardiovascular disease provides an opportunity for large-scale risk assessment in women without additional cost and radiation exposure.”
In a linked editorial appearing in Heart (the official journal of the British Cardiovascular Society) Drs Dexter Canoy and Kazem Rahimi of the Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health, University of Oxford, agree, adding that further research in different settings is warranted.
"Perhaps it is high time to establish how bone health affects vasculature and understand the underlying pathophysiology that links osteoporotic and atherosclerotic conditions. In doing so, we might just discover new ways to improve the treatment of, and care for, the hearts and minds of women, as well as of men,"