When you think of osteoporosis, you probably think of an elderly woman you see walking stooped over with a cane. However, this is not just a female affliction. Men’s bones can become brittle, too – and often with worse effects. In actuality, 1.5 million men older than age 65 have osteoporosis – and another 3.5 million are at risk. There are important differences between men and women when it comes to osteoporosis.
For men, the bone loss starts later and progresses more slowly. By age 70, men catch up to women in the rate they lose bone. Because men tend to be older when they get osteoporosis, the complications from broken bones can be more serious for them. Hip, spine, and wrist bones break most often.
Risk factors linked to osteoporosis for men include:
- Chronic diseases that affect the kidneys, lungs, stomach, and intestines or change hormone levels.
- Regular use of drugs like corticosteroids (a type of steroid medication that curbs inflammation), or others that suppress the immune system.
- Low levels of testosterone.
- Unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, getting too little calcium and Vitamin D, and not enough exercise.
- Race - white men appear to be at the greatest risk.
- Small body frame.
Ways to help prevent osteoporosis:
- Make sure that you are getting adequate levels of calcium and Vitamin D.
- Weight bearing exercises such as walking or lifting weights.
- Change unhealthy habits such as smoking and alcohol use.
- If you have a family history of osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about a bone density test or densitometry.
Osteoporosis in men is often overlooked and undertreated. Make your doctor aware of your concern for your bone health as you age. Taking care of your bone health as above can help prevent the fractures and other problems that occur with osteoporosis that goes untreated.