More than once we have seen a smiling actress on TV explain to us that she has osteoporosis and thankfully she has found the right medicine to help her live a healthy life as she deals with her illness. Generally a couple of happy grandkids run on and off the screen. Most of us consider this a disease that affects post-menopausal women. But set aside the image we have of a “typical” osteoporosis sufferer and you’ll find that osteoporosis doesn’t just strike women over the age of 50. Though the smiling actress represents a large population affected by brittle bones and complications of osteoporosis, men are very much at risk too.
Many consider osteoporosis the “silent disease,” one that doesn’t really present any warning signs or symptoms until a fracture occurs – when it is already too late. And though we’ve recently posted about risk factors associated with osteoporosis, we need to acknowledge that there are some risk factors we can control while others we cannot. We can do some things to prevent the problem, or improve the condition of our bone health during our lifespan and education is an important first step.
Men can suffer from osteoporosis?
Men need to be aware of the risk factors just as much as their female counterparts. Osteoporosis is a considerable threat to over 2 million men in the U.S. alone. In fact, one in four men over 50 years of age may experience an osteoporosis-related injury in their lifetime, whereas one in two women over 50 years old may experience the same injury.
As noted in our previous post, as our life expectancy increases so does the risk of experiencing bone density loss and osteoporosis-related fractures. Though women lose bone mass at a more rapid pace after menopause (generally age 50 and up) by the time men are in their mid-60s – 70s they are losing bone mass at the same rate as women. So why do we keep thinking of this as a “woman’s” disease
Age-related bone loss
Osteo-related fracture cases are largely as a result of age-related bone loss, which is an issue for men 70s and older. As some studies have indicated men who have osteoporosis have at least one, if not more, secondary causes. Those include:
- Diseases affecting the kidneys, lungs or digestive system
- Regular use of specific medications like glucocorticoids
- Unchecked, low levels of testosterone
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits: smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, low-calcium diets, and not enough exercise
- Age – the older we get the greater the risk
- And race – as noted before, Caucasians have the highest risk of developing brittle bone disease
Osteoporosis and bone breaks
Most common osteo-related fractures occur in the wrist, hip or spine. Outside of the disabling effects of a bad break, hip fractures are considered particularly dangerous, especially for men. One explanation is that men tend to be older when a hip fracture occurs than their female counterparts. In fact, men who have hip fractures are more likely than women to die from complications.
The good news about prevention
The good news is that osteoporosis is prevented the same way in both genders. As noted in our previous posts avoiding smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and increasing physical activity help battle against brittle bones. Additionally, make sure to take enough calcium and vitamin D supplements as part of your daily diet. (Check with your physician about the amount you should take based on age and other factors.)
The best way to deal with osteoporosis is through knowledge, testing, and communication with your doctor to make sure that enough is being done to protect your bones into the future.
Neglecting your bone health, whether you are a man or woman, can have a devastating and, at times, painful effect on the quality of life. Talk to our knowledgeable OAM staff about what you can do to keep your bones healthy and how to live with osteoporosis if you’ve been diagnosed.
Full information regarding men’s risks and bone health is available.