Harvard Heart Letter

Failing hearts linked to broken bones

Although heart failure seems to have little in common with broken bones, accumulating evidence suggests they are somehow tied to each other.

Mayo Clinic researchers followed the health of nearly 1,000 men and women newly diagnosed with heart failure and an equal number without it, matched for age and gender. The investigators tracked their health for at least seven years and sometimes for as long as 20 years. Those with heart failure had more broken bones — mostly broken hips — both before and after the onset of heart failure than those without failing hearts (American Journal of Medicine, May 2011).

How might these two dissimilar conditions be related? One possibility is that the metabolic derangements that cause bones to thin might also cause the heart to weaken, or vice versa. Frailty may also play a role, suggested by the fact that broken hips (which are usually caused by falls) predominated over vertebral fractures (broken bones in the spine), which are more closely related to osteoporosis.

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