Relationship of calcification of atherosclerotic plaque and arterial stiffness to bone mineral density and osteoprotegerin in postmenopausal women referred for osteoporosis screening

Calcif Tissue Int. 2008 Aug;83(2):112-20. doi: 10.1007/s00223-008-9153-2. Epub 2008 Jul 9.


Arterial calcification leading to increased arterial stiffness, a powerful risk factor for cardiovascular disease, may underlie the association of osteoporosis with cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women. Osteoprotegerin (OPG), an indirect inhibitor of osteoclastogenesis, may be involved in arterial calcification. We examined relationships between calcification of subclinical atherosclerotic plaque and arterial stiffness with bone mineral density (BMD) and OPG in a group of 54 postmenopausal women referred for routine osteoporosis screening by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometric scanning of the lumbar spine and hip. Presence of calcified and noncalcified plaque in carotid and femoral arteries was examined using ultrasonography. Pulse wave velocity (PWV), a measure of arterial stiffness, was determined by sequential tonometry over the carotid and femoral region. Fifty-nine percent of osteoporotic women had calcified (echogenic) plaque at one or more sites compared with 42% and 20% for women with osteopenia and normal BMD, respectively (P = 0.04). There was a significant negative correlation between PWV and hip BMD (r = -0.35, P = 0.01), which remained significant when age, mean arterial pressure, and serum lipids were taken into account (P = 0.05). No significant relationships were observed between serum concentrations of OPG and lumbar spine or total hip BMD or with the number of arterial sites with calcified or noncalcified plaque. However, there was a strong correlation between OPG and PWV (r = 0.44, P = 0.001), which remained significant when adjusted for age (P = 0.01). These findings suggest that decreased BMD is associated with arterial calcification and stiffening and raise the possibility that OPG is a marker of arterial stiffening, independent of any association with BMD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atherosclerosis / blood
  • Atherosclerosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Calcinosis / blood
  • Calcinosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Calcinosis / pathology*
  • Carotid Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Carotid Arteries / pathology
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Hip Joint / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / metabolism
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / diagnosis*
  • Osteoprotegerin / blood*
  • Radiography
  • Ultrasonography


  • Biomarkers
  • Osteoprotegerin