Osteoporosis is the gradual weakening of bone generally seen in older people and usually of greater concern for women.
But osteoporosis is often overlooked in men, just as cardiovascular disease can be in women, said Dr. Lori Mosca, director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.
"The important message I took away from this as a clinician is that if you have a patient with cardiovascular disease, they may be at risk for fractures, and it is important to look at their risk factors for both," Mosca said.
The Swedish study is the latest entry in "a growing body of evidence that links osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease," she said. "There is a lot of interest in understanding a possible common pathway."
Lifestyle factors that contribute to both osteoporosis and cardiovascular risk include nutrition, smoking and lack of exercise, Mosca said. "What is unique about this particular study is that it evaluates the potential for both lifestyle factors and genetic factors to contribute to pathology," she said.
More research is needed, however, to identify the specific genetic factors linking the two risks, Mosca and Michaelsson said. "I do think this is possible, and we are on our way to performing such an investigation," Michaelsson said.
The Swedish study was possible because of a registry that includes twins born in the country between 1914 and 1944 and followed for decades. Another national registry identified Swedish twins diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and fractures between 1964 and 2005.
A limitation of the study, though, is that it covers just one ethnic group, Michaelsson acknowledged. "We cannot directly generalize our results to other ethnic groups," he said.
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