Osteoporosis in Men: A Hidden Health Concern
Have you asked your dad about his last bone density scan? If that sounds unfamiliar, he may need one! June is Men’s Health Month, a good time to remind the men in your life that yes, they too can develop osteoporosis. While osteoporosis affects more women, men can and do get it.
Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which bones become weak, brittle, and more likely to break. It occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both.
Osteoporosis can affect any bone in the body, but it is most common in the hip, spine, and wrist. And because you can see your bones getting thinner, osteoporosis is sometimes called a “silent disease.”
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 2 million American men already have osteoporosis, and another 12 million are at risk of developing it. Many people don’t find out that they have the condition until it causes a bone to break. And we know that broken bones in older adults can lead to a spiral of poor health outcomes.
Men are more likely to develop osteoporosis over the age of 50. Certain risk factors, such as low testosterone levels, family history of osteoporosis, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and some medications can increase the risk of developing the condition.
Treatment for osteoporosis has improved a lot over the last 30 years, but in order to treat it a doctor has to screen for it. Unfortunately, fewer people who are at risk of developing osteoporosis have been screened this year compared to a decade ago.
The International Osteoporosis Foundation recently released “Build Better Bones,” a website with resources for people with osteoporosis and their caregivers.
Professor Olivier Bruyère, a professor of geriatric rehabilitation in at the University of Liège in Belgium, helped develop the tool. He notes that lifestyle choices can help prevent osteoporosis.
“For most patients, anti-osteoporosis medications are the first line of defense in preventing fractures and strengthening bones,” said Dr. Bruyere. “However, targeted exercise that builds muscle strength and improves balance and physical function is very important too. As many older adults with osteoporosis rely on caregivers for assistance, we have also included information that will support caregivers in providing the best possible care.”
Here are some things you can do to prevent osteoporosis.
Get enough calcium and vitamin D: Calcium and vitamin D are essential for building strong bones. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods, while vitamin D can be obtained through exposure to sunlight, fatty fish, and fortified foods.
Exercise regularly: Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and weightlifting, can help build and maintain bone density. Men should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
Don’t smoke: Smoking can decrease bone density and increase the risk of fractures.
Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken bones and increase the risk of falls.
Talk to your doctor about medications: Certain medications, such as steroids, can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Men who take these medications should talk to their doctor about ways to minimize their risk.
Get screened: Men over 50 should get a bone density test to assess their risk of osteoporosis. If a man is found to have low bone density, his doctor may recommend further testing or treatment.