Osteoporosis – the brittle bone disease – is often regarded as more of a “woman’s disease.” We seldom hear of the toll this “silent disease” has on men, yet worldwide, approximately one in five men aged 50 years or older will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Each year, October 20th is designated as World Osteoporosis Day launching a year-long campaign dedicated to raising global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of this disease. This year the focus is on men and their risk of developing osteoporosis. With an ever-aging population, the rate of osteoporosis will continue to rise. Education is the key to prevent this disease before it ever has a chance to start.
What is Osteoporosis?
The word osteoporosis literally means “porous bone” and is a disease in which the bones become weak, brittle and more likely to break. The breaks often occur in the hip, spine and wrist. It’s nicknamed the “silent disease” as it generally has few if any symptoms. The loss of bone occurs gradually over the years until the bone is so thin and weak that even a minor injury can result in a fracture.
How does Osteoporosis affect men?
Even though more women are affected by osteoporosis – more than 80 percent affected are women – men are still at risk of developing this disease. Men should be aware and take preventative action early in life to avoid the debilitating affects it can have on the body. Here are some facts from the International Osteoporosis Foundation on how it affects men:
· One-third of all hip fractures worldwide occur in men.
· Men over the age of 50 are more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than to develop prostate cancer.
· In the United States in 2005, almost 595,000 fractures occurred in men aged 50 years or older of which 74,000 were hip fractures. Osteoporosis affects more than two million men in the United States.
· Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) for prostate cancer and glucocorticoid treatment, used for many other conditions, are two of the most common causes of secondary osteoporosis in men
· Men are twice as likely to die when compared to women of a hip fracture, with a mortality rate as high as 37% in the first year following a fracture.
· Due to an aging population, the prevalence of osteoporosis and low bone mass is expected to increase. By 2020, one in two Americans over age 50 is expected to have or be at risk of developing osteoporosis of the hip.
Why do men develop osteoporosis?
We all know women are naturally at a higher risk of osteoporosis due to their gender, ethnicity, their smaller body size and hormonal influences. Regardless of gender, nearly half of all people over the age of 75 are affected by osteoporosis. Men have certain risk factors that also place them at risk of thinning bones:
· Poor lifestyle habits – low levels of vitamin D and calcium intake as well as increasingly sedentary lifestyles all have an impact on reaching peak bone mass.
· Calcium intakes in adolescent boys reported levels of only 60% of country-specific requirements.
· Excessive alcohol consumption (more than two drinks a day) is associated with a 38% increased risk of having a fracture and a 68% increased risk of a hip fracture.
· Smoking is associated with a significantly increased risk of broken bones: 29% increased risk of any fragility fracture; 68% increased risk of a hip fracture.
· Low levels of testosterone.
Steps men can take to prevent osteoporosis
Men can begin early in life to prevent or at least lessen the likelihood of ever developing osteoporosis. Listed below are the areas men should pay attention to throughout their life:
Your diet plays a prominent role in the prevention and progression of the rate of bone loss over the years. Maintaining a lifelong, well-balanced diet that includes foods rich in many pivotal nutrients is one of the best protective factors against osteoporosis.
Our skeleton is an active organ, made up of tissue and cells in a constant state of activity throughout our lives. There are three phases of bone development that coincide with age: growth, modeling and remodeling. During the majority of adulthood, we are in the remodeling phase with bone resorption and formation constantly occurring.
Consuming a diet rich in nutrients throughout our adult lives will have an essential role in bone health. Here are the nutrients along with food sources to eat daily:
Amount needed by men daily
Why they’re important for bone health
Milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, broccoli, bok choy, collard greens
Age 19-50 – 1000 mg
Age 51 and up – 1200 mg
Helps build and maintain bone health. Bones contain 99.5% if total calcium in the body
Vitamin-D fortified milk, egg yolks, fatty fish, sunlight
Age 19-70 – 600 IU or 15 mcg
Age 70 and up – 800 IU or 20 mcg
Helps the body absorb calcium depositing it into the bone
Kale, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, okra
Necessary for calcium to build bone, leading to greater bone density and less fractures
Nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dark chocolate
19-30 – 400 mg
31 and up – 420 mg
Involved in bone formation and affects hormonal concentrations that regulate bone homeostasis
Wheat germ, beef, liver, pork, pumpkin seeds, lentils, tofu, oysters
Co-factor in the stimulation of bone-building osteoblasts and mineralization
The mineral calcium has often taken center stage as being a star nutrient in helping decrease the risk of osteoporosis. Dairy foods such as milk contain the bone building nutrients of vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus. Visit the National Milk Life campaign for additional information on how to incorporate dairy foods into your diet.
The damage smoking does to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems is well-known. But what isn’t as common knowledge is how cigarettes can be harmful to the bones. Smoking cigarettes interferes with calcium absorption and can lead to thinning of the bones. If a man smokes and does not obtain adequate calcium through his food choices, this will set him up for developing osteoporosis.
· Excessive alcohol
Drinking alcohol can affect the amount of calcium absorbed and stored in the bones. Anyone regularly consuming 2-3 ounces of alcohol each day will be increasing their risk of osteoporosis. If a man is an alcoholic, his damaged liver will not produce the enzyme needed to convert vitamin D to its active form in order to absorb calcium. Alcoholics also do not absorb fat as well which is necessary to absorb calcium and vitamin D. When calcium levels are reduced, parathyroid levels increase inhibiting the production of osteoblasts which are bone-producing cells. Another hormone that increases in alcoholics is cortisol which can decrease bone formation and increase the breakdown of bone. On top of these changes, alcohol’s effect on the central nervous system puts them at a greater risk of fracture-causing falls and accidents.
· Certain medications
A prolonged use of certain medications can lead to loss of bone mass. Such medications include glucocorticoids, used to treat arthritis, lupus, asthma, Crohn’s disease and other conditions; certain anti-seizure drugs; some cancer treatments, antacids that contain aluminum, and excessive thyroid hormone. Always consult with your physician about the risks and benefits of medications you are taking.
Osteoporosis can be prevented or at least slowed down. The more men practice the suggestions in this article, the more he can enjoy an active lifestyle without the debilitating consequences of a fracture or thinning bones.