Osteoporosis In Men: A Silent Disease

If you think you‘re not at risk of getting osteoporosis because you’re a man, think again.  While 80% of Americans with Osteoporosis are women, men are at risk too. Two million American men have Osteoporosis and another 3 million are at risk.  It is estimated that after the age of 50, one in five men will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that makes your bones weak and more likely to break.  Osteoporosis is called a silent disease because it often goes unnoticed until a bone fracture occurs.  It develops less often in men than in women because men have larger bones and bone loss starts later in life and progresses more slowly.  As life expectancy continues to rise, it is likely that the number of men diagnosed with osteoporosis will also increase. 

Are You At Risk?

  • Did your mother or father have bone loss or broken bones?  Osteoporosis can run in families.
  • If you are Caucasian or Asian you have an increased risk of getting osteoporosis.
  • The use of certain medications such as corticosteroids, medications that depress the immune system, cancer treatments (especially for prostate cancer) and some seizure medications can increase your risk.
  • Are you a man over the age of 65?  Men lose bone as they grow older.
  • Do you have a small frame or low body weight?
  • Some diseases such as diabetes, scoliosis, rheumatoid arthritis, malignancy and inflammatory bowel disease can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.

Risks You Can Change

  • Is your diet low in calcium now or when you were a child?  A diet low in calcium either in the past or present, increases your risk of bone loss. 
  • Do you exercise?  Bones get weak without exercise.
  • Are you a heavy smoker?  Smoking decreases your body’s ability to make new bone.
  • Do you drink more than 2 alcoholic beverages daily?  Alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to make new bone.
  • Do you drink a lot of soda, coffee or other caffeinated drinks?  Too much caffeine can keep your bones from getting enough calcium. 
  • Low vitamin D levels.

 How is Osteoporosis Diagnosed in Men?

Osteoporosis can be effectively treated if it is detected before you have lost too much bone.  Your health care provider can diagnose and treat osteoporosis.   Certain lab tests and x-rays may be ordered to evaluate your bone health.   A bone mineral density test may be ordered.  This test can identify osteoporosis, determine your risk for broken bones and help monitor your response to treatment. 

Prevention and Treatment

Prevention and early detection is best to limit bone loss.  You should participate in weight bearing exercise at least 30 minutes a minimum of three to four times a week.  Weight bearing exercise can include walking, yoga, running, tennis, weight training, use of resistance machines and aerobics.  Swimming and bike riding are good activities but do not count as weight bearing exercise. 

Getting enough calcium is important.   Adult men age 19 through 50 should get 1000mg of calcium daily.  After the age of 50, men need 1200-1500mg of calcium daily. Calcium can be found in foods such as low fat milk and dairy products, fortified almond milk, and lesser amounts in green leafy vegetables.   Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from your diet.  Vitamin D is made in skin when it is exposed to direct sunlight.  Vitamin D can also be found in lesser levels in foods such as egg yolks, fish, liver, or fortified dairy products or orange juice. 

If you are at risk for or have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your health care provider may prescribe supplements or medication to help prevent or slow bone loss. 

 While you cannot change your genetics, skeletal frame, sex, race or age, you can control other risk factors such as diet, exercise and lifestyle choices including smoking and alcohol use to improve your bone health.    Your healthcare provider can help guide you through prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. 

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