Depression, poor quality of life, and now, increased risk for bone fractures. Is there no end to the problems facing heart failure patients? Unfortunately, a study by Canadian researchers found a link between heart failure and incidence of bone fractures.
“Patients who are newly diagnosed with heart failure in the emergency department are at least four times as likely to suffer serious bone fractures over the next year compared with patients presenting to the emergency department with other CV disorders.”
The analysis was based on hospital data from over 16,000 patients. 2041 of these patients were just newly diagnosed with heart failure. The remaining 14,253 had other cardiovascular conditions. The incidence of any orthopedic bone fracture among heart failure patients was more than 4 times higher (4.6% vs. 1%) than those without heart failure. The figures did not significantly change when corrected for age, sex, and medications. Of all types of fractures, hip fractures are the most common with more than 6% higher risk among heart failure patients. This is especially disturbing because hip fractures are difficult to heal, cause prolonged disability and increase the risk for thrombosis and lung infections.
The mechanism behind the heart failure – bone fracture link is not clear and requires bigger and more in-depth studies. A possible explanation might be the fact that long term heart failure can cause secondary parathyroidism. Parathyroidism is a condition wherein the parathyroid glands are enlarged. The glands are responsible for controlling the breakdown of calcium in the body. Dysfunction of the parathyroid glands can cause bone loss and high levels of blood calcium. Other factors which can further weaken the bones may be poor nutrition and lack of exercise among elderly depressed heart failure patients.
Heart failure is a chronic disease that worsens over time until the heart completes loses the capacity to pump. According to the American Heart Association, “more than 5 million Americans are living with heart failure, and 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.” According to the study, heart failure is also a leading cause of hospitalizations and mortality in Canada. It occurs in 2.2% of the general population and 8.4% in adults older than 75.
The results of the study also highlight a possible link between heart failure and osteoporosis. The incidence of osteoporosis is about 25% in females and 12% in males among adults 50 years old and above.
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However, with the proper preventive measures, such as lifestyle changes and knowing the early signs, heart failure need not be a death sentence.