Osteoporosis In Men
During your youth, bones grow in length and density. During your teens, maximum height is reached, but bones continue to grow denser until about age 30 when peak bone density is attained. After that point, your bones slowly start to lose density or strength. Throughout your life, bone density is affected by heredity, diet, sex hormones, physical activity, lifestyle choices, and the use of certain medications.
Most men over the age of 50 routinely monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels, PSA levels (for prostate cancer) and discuss lifestyle behaviors such as drinking, smoking and exercise during their annual physicals. However; osteoporosis in men is an issue that often gets overlooked.
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. This leads to increased bone fragility and the risk of fracture, particularly of the hip, spine and wrist. It does not develop overnight. You can lose bone mass steadily for many years without experiencing any symptoms or signs of the disease until a bone fracture occurs. Osteoporosis is often referred to as “the silent thief” because bone loss occurs without symptoms. If osteoporosis is first diagnosed at the time a fracture occurs, it is already fairly advanced.
According to the Canadian Osteoporosis Society, at least one in eight Canadian men over the age of 50 has osteoporosis, compared to one in four women over 50. As men live longer and the population ages, this figure is expected to increase. Recently, the Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study (CaMos) found that men over age 50 had a similar rate of spinal deformity (a possible indicator of osteoporosis and its resulting spinal fractures) as women in the same age group.
Early detection of bone loss is critical in preventing osteoporotic fractures.
The following risk factors are associated with osteoporosis in men:
- Prolonged exposure to certain medications, such as steroids used to treat asthma or arthritis, anticonvulsants, certain cancer treatments and aluminum-containing antacids
- Chronic disease that affects the kidneys, lungs, stomach, and intestines and alters hormone levels
- Undiagnosed low levels of the sex hormone testosterone
- Lifestyle habits:
- Excessive alcohol use
- Low calcium intake
- Inadequate physical exercise
- Age: Bone loss increases with age
- Race: White men appear to be at greatest risk for osteoporosis. However, men from all ethnic groups develop osteoporosis
How can osteoporosis be prevented?
Experts agree that all persons should take the following steps to preserve bone health.
- Identify and treat underlying medical conditions that affect bone health.
- Change unhealthy habits, such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and inactivity.
- Ensure you get enough calcium each day to keep bones healthy.
- Men under age 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium daily
- Men age 50 and over need 1,200 mg of calcium daily.
- Ensure you get enough vitamin D. Although your body can make vitamin D from sunlight, many Canadians do not get enough vitamin D because of low levels of sun exposure. The recommended daily intake is 1,000 IU.
- Engage in a regular regimen of weight-bearing exercises where bone and muscles work against gravity. This includes walking, jogging, racquet sports, stair climbing, and team sports. Also, lifting weights or using resistance machines appears to help preserve bone density.
- All men over age 50 are urged to discuss their risk factors for osteoporosis with their physician and to get a bone mineral density test if the assessment indicates they are at risk. Osteoporosis Canada recommends bone mineral density testing for all men aged 65 and older.