Low Bone Mineral Density Linked to Dementia in Women
Saturday, May 17th 2003
Elderly women with low bone mineral densities (BMD) appear to be at increased risk for developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, according to study findings presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society in Baltimore.
The same relationship between BMD and memory decline was not present in men, however.
In women, it is not low BMD itself, but what it represents, that probably increases the risk of memory problems, study author Dr. Zaldy Tan, from Harvard University in Boston, told Reuters Health.
Previous reports have shown that the drop in estrogen production at menopause accelerates bone loss in women, and that the BMD a woman carries into old age is a "marker for lifelong estrogen exposure," Dr. Tan said.
Consequently, if a woman has a low BMD in her 70s, "that may mean (her) estrogen exposure during (her) lifetime is not as high as it should be," he added.
Previous research has also suggested that estrogen may protect the brain from memory loss, Dr. Tan pointed out. Therefore, high BMD may indicate high lifetime levels of estrogen, which, in turn, protects against cognitive decline.
However, Dr. Tan added that confirmatory studies are needed before clinicians start using bone scans to predict a woman's risk of dementia.
In the new study, Dr. Tan and his team recorded BMDs for 987 men and women, average age 76, then followed them for up to 13 years and noted who developed dementia.
They found that women with the lowest BMDs were more than twice as likely as others to later develop Alzheimer's disease or all-cause dementia.
In men, however, earlier BMD had no relationship to dementia risk, suggesting that changes in estrogen may have a different effect on men than women, Dr. Tan said.
Although the findings suggest that estrogen may protect against dementia in women, Dr. Tan noted that previous research has shown that estrogen does not help treat these conditions once they develop.
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) May 15 2003
By Alison McCook
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