Echogenic Carotid Artery Plaques are Associated with Vertebral Fractures in Postmenopausal Women with Low Bone Mass
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Although low bone mass has been associated with atherosclerosis even after adjustment for age, little is known about the association between vertebral fractures and calcified atherosclerotic plaques. Our objective was to investigate whether osteoporotic vertebral fractures are independently related to the prevalence of atherosclerotic carotid plaques in postmenopausal women with low bone mass. We enrolled 195 postmenopausal women with osteopenia or osteoporosis. Bone mineral density and the presence of vertebral fractures were assessed. Intima media thickness and atherosclerotic plaques of the carotid artery were assessed using ultrasonography. Of the 195 subjects in the study, 84 had no plaques and 111 had at least one. The percentage of women with vertebral fractures was significantly higher in subjects with echogenic carotid plaques than in those without (27% vs. 11%, respectively; P < 0.05). However, there was no difference in the prevalence of vertebral fractures between women with echolucent plaques and those without (10.9% vs. 10.7%, respectively; P = nonsignificant). By logistic regression analysis with multivariate adjustment, age (P < 0.01), dyslipidemia (P < 0.05), and the presence of vertebral fracture (P < 0.05) were independent risk factors for echogenic carotid plaques. Osteoporotic vertebral fractures are associated with an increased risk of echogenic atherosclerotic plaques in postmenopausal women with low bone mass. It appears that the high association of echogenic atherosclerotic plaques and vertebral fractures could partially explain why osteoporotic vertebral fractures are linked to increased mortality.