Why Monitoring Bone Health Is Crucial in Parkinson’s
My sister Bev, who has stage 3 Parkinson’s disease (PD), has balance problems and an unsteady gait, which have led to a number of falls. Fortunately, she hasn’t suffered any major injuries as a result.
Last year, Bev had a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DEXA, scan to measure her bone density. It revealed bone loss and moderate osteoporosis.
Our bones lose calcium and other minerals as we age, so it’s normal to experience some bone loss over time. When I accompanied Bev to her neurology appointment, I asked the doctor if the osteoporosis could be related to her PD.
According to the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s, “While not a direct symptom of Parkinson’s, osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and brittle, is extremely common among people living with Parkinson’s.” Studies have found that up to 91% of women and 61% of men with PD have either osteoporosis or osteopenia.
In a 2014 research paper published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, authors reviewed 23 studies about bone health and Parkinson’s and found that people with PD are at a higher risk for osteoporosis and osteopenia than the general population.
Bev’s neurologist confirmed that many people with PD experience osteoporosis as well as vitamin D deficiency, which has been associated with more frequent falls in people with Parkinson’s. Combined with balance and gait issues, decreased bone density and low vitamin D levels put people with PD at a higher risk of falling and sustaining a fracture.
Reporting on a review study published a few years ago in the journal Bone, Parkinson’s News Today‘s Marta Figueiredo noted that, “People with Parkinson’s disease are at elevated risk of hip and non-vertebral fractures mostly because of the balance problems inherent to the disease and poorer bone health.”
Because weak and brittle bones are more easily fractured, and people with PD are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, it’s important to take steps to strengthen bones and avoid injury, such as:
- Ask your doctor about taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to strengthen your bones.
- Exercise to encourage bone growth and strengthen joints and muscles, which can help to prevent falls and injuries.
- Eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables, which are rich in vitamin C and may increase bone mineral density.
- Ask your doctor if medications for osteoporosis, bone loss, or related pain are an option.
- Review all of your medications with a doctor to see if any could be contributing to bone loss.
Bev was on calcium tablets, but her primary healthcare provider took her off them because she kept developing kidney stones. She still takes vitamin D daily and receives an injection for osteoporosis twice a year.
While maintaining good bone health is important for everyone, it is especially beneficial for those with Parkinson’s disease.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.