Bone health is a crucial aspect of overall wellness. Generally, people hear about bone mass density, which is the measurement used to determine osteoporosis risk. However, the term high bone mass is relatively new, and there is so much that people don’t know about it.
This article discusses what high bone mass means and its possible implication for your health.
What is High Bone Mass?
High bone mass, as the name suggests, means that your bones have a higher density than the average person for your sex and age. Essentially, it is the opposite of osteoporosis, where bones are fragile and brittle due to low bone density.
High bone mass can be acquired or inherited. In the latter case, it is known as an inherited bone disorder. Hereditary high bone mass presents differently, and some people may not know they have it until they get older, while others might experience bone pain in childhood.
How Is High Bone Mass Diagnosed?
A diagnosis of high bone mass (HBM) is made when the bone density is higher than the average BMD for age and gender. Diagnosis of HBM should be based on a combination of clinical, radiographic, and other relevant characteristics rather than relying solely on BMD measurement.
Other features commonly reported in individuals with HBM include dense skeletal radiographic appearance, a propensity for fracture, and thickening of the cranial vault or diaphysis of long bones.
HBM in Inherited Bone Disorders
HBM has been associated with various autosomal dominant genetic disorders that often have other features, such as short stature or vision or hearing loss, such as:
- café-au-lait spots with localised unilateral overgrowth and sclerosing bone dysplasia
- dysplasia epiphysealis hemimelica (Trevor disease)
Inherited HBM may also occur in association with high serum calcium levels, due to identified or unsuspected parathyroid adenomas or, rarely, other genetic or acquired disorders of calcium homeostasis, such as hyperthyroidism, William’s syndrome or idiopathic hypoparathyroidism.
HBM in Non-hereditary Disorders
Non-hereditary causes of HBM include long-term treatment with some antiepileptic drugs and glucocorticoid. Furthermore, glucocorticoid-induced HBM is often associated with osteonecrosis or vertebral fractures due to fragility.
Implications of High Bone Mass
The implications of high bone mass are not fully understood, and research is still ongoing. However, several studies have shown possible outcomes that correlate with high bone mass, such as:
- Reduced bone fracture risk
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Higher BMI
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
Reduced Fracture Risk
According to a reduction of osteoporotic fractures and vertebral deformities study of the Dutch population, those with high bone mass were less susceptible to fractures than their counterparts with normal or low bone mass.
Reduced Risk of Osteoporosis
Similarly, a study conducted in the Chinese population showed that people with high bone mass had a lower risk of developing osteoporosis regardless of their bone mass decline rate.
Higher Body Mass Index
High bone mass is also related to a high body mass index (BMI). A high BMI generally means that an individual is of a healthy weight, which is crucial to overall wellness.
Lower Cardiovascular Risk
One study showed that people with hereditary high bone mass (HHBM) also exhibited a lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Can High Bone Mass Increase the Risk of Cancer?
Several studies have assessed the relationship between high bone mass and the risk of cancer, but the results are not conclusive. Some studies suggest that a high bone mass might increase the risk of breast cancer, most notably in postmenopausal women, while other studies have concluded the opposite.
While it’s uncommon, a few studies have shown a link between hereditary high bone mass and malignant melanoma. Nonetheless, it’s essential to understand that hereditary high bone mass is incredibly rare.
Does High Bone Mass Require Treatment?
Generally, high bone mass does not require any treatment as long as it does not cause any discomfort. If treatment is required, it is usually for the symptoms caused by HBM, such as joint pain.
Individuals with inherited high bone mass are often referred to a specialist familiar with skeletal disorders and bone mass management. These experts manage the symptoms and minimize the risk of complications associated with high bone mass.
If your doctor recommends medication for joint pain, you might get nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as painkillers like ibuprofen. Severe cases may require surgery such as patella realignment.
You can also participate in exercises to improve mobility and reduce pain. include low-impact activities such as brisk walking, yoga, and aerobic conditioning, and aquatic exercise such as laps or water aerobics.
High bone mass is incredibly rare, and while it may pose some risk, the benefits seem to outweigh any potential risks, such as a reduced risk of fractures or osteoporosis. If you have high bone mass, you do not require any treatment as long as it does not cause discomfort or pain. If you experience pain, work with your doctor to determine the best course of action.
Here are some frequently asked questions about high bone mass:
- What causes high bone mass?
- Is high bone mass common?
- What are the benefits of high bone mass?
- Is high bone mass related to cancer risk?
- Does high bone mass require treatment?
High bone mass can be genetic or acquired, and the causes are still under research.
No, high bone mass is rare and present in less than 0.5% of the population.
The benefits of high bone mass may include reduced bone fractures, lower risk of developing osteoporosis, higher body mass index, and lower cardiovascular risk.
Some studies suggest that a high bone mass might increase the risk of breast cancer, while other studies have concluded the opposite. There is no conclusive evidence.
Most people with high bone mass do not require treatment unless it causes discomfort or pain. Doctors recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), exercise, or surgery for severe cases.
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