The Nation's Health + vitamin D

Osteoporosis and coronary calcium

Several studies over the years have demonstrated a curious paradox:

People with more osteoporosis (thin bones) tend to be more likely to have coronary disease (heart attacks). They also tend to have higher heart scan scores (more coronary calcification as an index of atherosclerotic plaque).

People with more coronary disease and higher heart scan scores tend to have more osteoporosis.

In other words, regardless of which way you tackle the question--osteoporosis first or heart disease first--it leads to the same conclusion: Both conditions are somehow related.

I realize I harp an awful lot on this whole vitamin D issue. But, even after correcting the vitamin D blood levels of many hundreds of people, I remain enthusiastic as ever about the untapped potential of this fascinating factor.

So I couldn't resist showing this amazing comparison of how the long-term effect can be quite graphic.

The first scan is from a 46-year old man and shows normal coronary arteries without calcium and normal density of the vertebra (a common and reliable place to measure bone density).


The second image is from a 79-year old man with both severe coronary calcification (and therefore severe coronary disease) and severe osteoporosis.


It makes you wonder if the disordered metabolism of calcium through vitamin D deficiency allows transport of calcium away from bone and into coronaries . This has, however, been shown to not be the case. Instead, they are separate processes, each under local control, but sharing a common pathophysiology (causative factors).

An intriguing question: Would the 79-year old still look like the 46-year old had he begun increasing his vitamin D intake at, say, age 30?

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Relevant to: Osteoporosis and coronary calcium + vitamin D