A new study shows that calcification within the abdominal aorta can double one’s risk of developing dementia over the age of 80. News Atlas’ recent article entitled “Common bone density scan can predict later-life dementia risk” reports that the new study examined data from a long-term research project called The Perth Longitudinal Study of Aging Women. The project initially was focused on understanding how calcium supplements can prevent osteoporotic fractures. However, it also included more than 10 years of valuable follow-up health data.
A team of researchers from Australia’s Edith Cowan University re-examined data from that study, hypothesizing that certain biomarkers gathered from bone density scans could be used to predict the onset of dementia up to 15 years later. The focus was on a biomarker called abdominal aortic calcification (AAC). That’s a build-up of calcium in the body’s largest artery. AAC is currently used to predict a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Examining the health records from nearly 1,000 women, they found those subjects with medium to high AAC in their mid-70s were twice as likely to be hospitalized or die from dementia over the following 15 years.
It’s very quick and easy to capture these scans. They are also less-invasive, cheaper and miniscule in radiation exposure compared to X-rays or CT scans. One of the study’s authors, Joshua Lewis, said that bone density scans are common tests for senior citizens.
“It’s generally very quick and easy to capture these scans and they are less-invasive, cheaper and miniscule in radiation exposure compared to X-rays or CT scans,” said Lewis. “It means these scans may be a cheap, rapid and safe way to screen a large number of susceptible older Australians for higher late-life dementia risk.”
The study also indicates there to be a significant overlap in the link between cardiovascular health and brain health. Simon Laws, another researcher on the project, said identifying AAC as a risk factor in late-life dementia opens the door to lifestyle and dietary interventions that could help people prevent cognitive decline in their 80s.
“There’s an adage in dementia research that what’s good for your heart is good for your brain,” Laws said. “What’s come to light is the importance of modifying risk factors, such as diet and physical activity, in preventing dementia: you need to intervene early and hopefully this study allows for the earliest possible change and the greatest impact.”
In the short-term, these findings offer doctors and patients a novel way to use data from a common bone scan in assessing one’s risk of developing dementia in the coming years. The new study was published in the journal The Lancet Regional Health.
Reference: News Atlas (June 27, 2022) “ Common bone density scan can predict later-life dementia risk”