Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Also Good for Bones
36% Less Risk of Broken Bones in Men Taking Statins
Sept. 26, 2005 -- Compelling new evidence suggests that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs cut the risk of broken bones.
Some 12 million Americans take statins to control their cholesterol. Several studies have suggested that the drugs may also prevent bone loss.
Now a large Veterans Administration study of more than 91,000 men over three and a half years offers compelling evidence that statins may indeed benefit bones.
"This finding is particularly important because millions of people suffer from fractures that potentially could be prevented, to some extent, by a therapy that's so commonly used," study leader Richard E. Scranton, MD, of Boston's Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Information Center, says in a news release.
Statins vs. Nonstatins vs. Nothing
Nobody knows exactly why statins might be good for bones. There are several ideas, all of which make biological sense even though none is proven.
Whatever the reason, Scranton and colleagues gathered data on men prescribed statins, on similar men prescribed different cholesterol drugs, and on similar men not taking any cholesterol drugs.
Those who took statins had 36% fewer fractures than the men not taking cholesterol drugs. They also had 32% fewer fractures than men taking nonstatin cholesterol drugs.
That's a big potential benefit -- one that needs to be proven, Scranton says.
"The need is too great to ignore this finding, particularly when we consider that one class of drugs could potentially reduce the suffering from two common conditions plaguing our society: heart attacks and bone fractures," he says.
The findings appear in the Sept. 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones, increasing the risk of sudden and unexpected fractures. Women are four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis.
Many times, osteoporosis is not discovered until weakened bones cause potentially debilitating fractures, usually in the back or hips.
Until about age 30, a person normally builds more bone than he or she loses. During the aging process, bone breakdown begins to outpace bone buildup, resulting in a gradual loss of bone mass. Once this loss of bone reaches a certain point, a person has osteoporosis.
5 Steps to Saving Your Bones
- Exercise. Exercise makes bones and muscles stronger and helps prevent bone loss. It also helps you stay active and mobile. Weight-bearing exercises, done at least three to four times a week, are best for preventing osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are all good weight-bearing exercises.
- Eat foods high in calcium. Getting enough calcium throughout your life helps to build and keep strong bones. The recommended dietary allowance for adults with a low to average risk of developing osteoporosis is 1,000 milligrams each day. For those at high risk of developing osteoporosis, such as postmenopausal women, the RDA increases to 1,500 milligrams each day. Excellent sources of calcium are milk and dairy products (low-fat versions are recommended), canned fish with bones like salmon and sardines, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, and broccoli, calcium-fortified orange juice, and breads made with calcium-fortified flour.
- Calcium. Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are good forms of calcium supplements. Be careful not to get more than 2,000 milligrams of calcium a day very often. That amount can increase your chance of developing kidney problems.
- Vitamin D. Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium. Being in the sun for 20 minutes every day helps most people's bodies make enough vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish like salmon, cereal, and milk fortified with vitamin D, as well as from supplements. People aged 51 to 70 should get 400 international units each day and those over age 70 should get 600 international units. More than 2,000 international units of vitamin D each day is not recommended because it may harm your kidney and even lower bone mass.
- Alcohol, Smoking. Smoking causes your body to make less estrogen, which protects the bones. Too much alcohol can damage your bones and increase your risk of falling and breaking a bone.