Studies Show Low Bone Density Is Linked to Dementia

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
August 17, 2023
Male physician with female patient explaining spinal scan

We’ve known for a while that dementia has a list of early indicators, including diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and stroke. Research have now added low bone density to the list, according to a study published in Neurology.

Researchers from Erasmus University Medical Center (Netherlands) observed a connection between people with dementia and low bone density. It makes sense — most people with dementia have poor nutrition, and they’re no longer physically active. But researchers were interested in the bone loss that occurred in the period leading up to dementia. Their study found a link.

The study began in 2002 with 3,651 participants with an average age of 72 and without dementia. Every four to five years, participants underwent bone density tests for their total body, trabecular bone (ends and neck of long bones), femoral neck (the part of the femur that connects head of the thigh with the bone) and lumbar spine (lower back). Participants also received an interview and cognition test. Participants who were not at risk for dementia were released from the study in 2005; however, those who were high risk, were followed until January 2020.

Researchers adjusting for variables such as age, gender, medication usage, education level, physical activity level, smoking status, body mass index, cholesterol levels, personal history of stroke and type 2 diabetes and family history of dementia. They found that participants with the lowest total body bone density scores were 42 percent more likely to develop dementia over the next 10 years when compared to participants with the highest total body bone density scores.

Bone Health

As we go through childhood and adolescence, our bones grow and develop until sometime between ages 17 and 25. At this point, we’re as tall as we’re going to be. And by the time we’re between 25 and 30, our bones have reached their peak mass. Before age 40, we slowly begin to lose bone mass, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Fortunately, we can take steps to help preserve our bone mass:

Avoid cigarettes. Smoking inhibits the delivery of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the bones and joints, calcium absorption and the production of bone-forming cells. It’s also linked to brain calcifications.

Eat a bone-healthy diet. This includes a wide variety of plant- and animal-based foods that are good sources of bone-building nutrients like magnesium, calcium and vitamin D. If you’re trying to lose weight, consult with your doctor on proper nutrition, as unhealthy dieting can lead to bone loss.

Take extra care of your bones if you’re taking a corticosteroid. Many chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis, leukemia, organ transplantation and Addison’s disease require corticosteroids to be managed. Work with your doctor to manage your condition that can help your corticosteroid medication. You also need to live a bone-healthy lifestyle which includes engaging in weight-bearing exercise, limiting alcohol and avoiding processed foods

“The researchers of this study did a great job identifying a connection between osteoporosis and dementia; however, more research is needed to determine the exact cause,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “We do know that both conditions having strong ties to aging and lifestyle, which means you should work with your doctor to help you prevent or manage both conditions.”

If you don’t have a doctor, consider joining an MDVIP-affiliated practice. MDVIP-affiliated doctors have more time to help you live a healthier lifestyle. Find an MDVIP affiliate near you and begin your partnership in health »

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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