Should Men Worry About Osteoporosis?

Although women are at greater risk of osteoporosis, men get this potentially debilitating bone disease, too. In fact, as Baby Boomers age (currently the largest U.S. generation), more men will get this disease as the number of men above the age of 70 continues to increase and life expectancy continues to rise. So that men can be more informed about their risk of developing osteoporosis and hopefully take steps to lower it, we at Westchester Health offer this blog of facts, guidelines and preventative measures.

What causes more women to get osteoporosis?

Rajiv Punn, MD

The main reason women are more prone to osteoporosis is due to decreasing estrogen levels, the primary female sex hormone that is also present to some degree in men. Estrogen maintains bone density, and as women go through menopause, their estrogen levels drop, which makes their bones weaker, more brittle and prone to fractures. In contrast, men have larger skeletons, their bone loss starts later in life and progresses more slowly, and they don’t experience the rapid hormonal change (menopause) that women do, causing bone loss.

Statistics from the National Osteoporosis Foundation:

  • Approximately 1 in 4 men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
  • 2 million American men already have osteoporosis, and about 12 million more are at risk.
  • Men older than 50 are more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than they are to get prostate cancer.
  • Each year, about 80,000 men will break a hip.

Many of the factors that put women at risk for osteoporosis apply to men as well

The following factors put men at risk of developing osteoporosis:

  • age: the older a man is, the greater his risk
  • race: Caucasian men seem to be at particularly high risk, but all men can develop osteoporosis
  • family history
  • steroids
  • not exercising
  • smoking
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • low testosterone levels
  • low estrogen levels
  • chronic kidney, lung or gastrointestinal disease
  • certain autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • low calcium intake
  • immunosuppressive drugs
  • COPD
  • asthma
  • cystic fibrosis
  • gastrointestinal disease
  • hypercalciuria (too much calcium lost through the urine)
  • immobilization (lack of weight-bearing exercise)

Men are more likely than women to die from hip fractures caused by osteoporosis

Permanently disabling fractures resulting from osteoporosis most commonly occur in the hip, spine and wrist. Hip fractures, the most life-threatening, tend to occur at an older age in men than women, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This means that men who sustain hip fractures are more likely than women to die from them, typically within a year, due to problems related to the break.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed in men?

Osteoporosis can be effectively treated if it is detected before significant bone loss has occurred. Diagnostic tests include:

  • a complete medical history
  • x-rays
  • urine and blood tests
  • bone density test

In men, a diagnosis of osteoporosis is often not made until a fracture occurs or a man complains of back pain to his doctor. So that they can begin treatment as quickly as possible if they do have osteoporosis, it is very important for men to inform their doctors about any risk factors, loss of height, change in posture, a fracture or sudden back pain.

How is osteoporosis treated?

Once a man has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, his doctor may prescribe one of the following:

  • If bone loss is due to glucocorticoid use, treatment may include medication to prevent or treat glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis
  • Monitor bone density and testosterone levels
  • Calcium and/or vitamin D supplements
  • Regular physical activity

Steps you can take to prevent, or at least slow down, osteoporosis

Many more research studies have been conducted on osteoporosis in women than men, but in any event, experts agree that people of both genders should take the following steps to preserve their bone health, says the Cleveland Clinic:

  • Don’t smoke, or if you do, stop
  • Reduce your alcohol intake
  • Increase your level of physical activity
  • Make sure you get the correct amount of daily calcium for your age
  • Take vitamin D (600 IU per day up to age 70. Men over age 70 should increase their uptake to 800 IU daily.)
  • Engage in a regular regimen of weight-bearing exercises in which bones and muscles work against gravity. This can include walking, jogging, racquet sports, climbing stairs, team sports, weight training and using resistance machines.
  • Stop taking medications known to cause bone loss, such as glucocorticoids (after discussing with your doctor)
  • Seek treatment for underlying medical conditions that affect bone health

Read our blogs on the subject

We’ve written several informative blogs about osteoporosis which you can read here.

Informative websites we recommend

Concerned about osteoporosis? Please come see us.

At Westchester Health, our #1 goal is to help you stay healthy, and a very important part of your overall health is screening for osteoporosis. If you think you might have osteoporosis, are afraid of falling and fracturing a bone, and/or would like a bone density test, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health family medicine practitioners. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

By Rajiv Punn, MD, a Family Medicine practitioner with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners

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