The typical American with osteoporosis is over 65, often small-framed and, almost always, female.
Considering that being a woman is the top risk factor for osteoporosis, followed by being post-menopausal, it’s no wonder that 80% of Americans diagnosed with osteoporosis are women.
Still, that means 20% of osteoporosis diagnoses come in men.
Men who’d rather go shoe-shopping at the mall for 6 hours than admit they have an “old ladies’ disease.” Men who may be in such complete denial that they fail to take even simple measures to help themselves.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, over 2 million American men have been diagnosed with full-blown osteoporosis, with another 12 million at significant risk.
The NOF also reports, however, that these figures probably under-represent the true numbers, as osteoporosis in men often goes undiagnosed until a hip or other severe fracture lands your dad (or husband) in the hospital.
Do you have a man in your life who has osteoporosis – or may be headed that way? If so, how can you help get past that roadblock of “I’m fine and I don’t want to talk about it?”
First, you need to be aware of the top osteoporosis risk factors for men:
•An inactive lifestyle (read: couch potato);
•Not enough calcium in the diet;
•Steroid drugs (e.g., Prednisone; when taken regularly, to treat conditions such as asthma or arthritis);
•Low testosterone levels.
Notice that five of those six factors are easily assessed, and can be dealt with. Not easily dealt with, for sure… but they ARE actionable. Only a low testosterone level is a “hidden” risk factor.
Now that you know what factors put males at risk, add ’em up. If your guy smokes; has more than two drinks a day (two beers, two shots, or two glasses of wine); spends most weekends watching sports on TV, and won’t touch milk, cheese, or yogurt with a 10’ pole – beware. He’s probably at significant risk.
Add in steroid drugs; or a lesser risk – a chronic digestive condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome, or kidney disease – and his risk is even greater.
So, now comes the daunting task of trying to change his lifestyle. We all know how difficult it can be to move a significant other from an unhealthy to healthy way of living. SO many things get in the way: habit, lack of time for exercise, fear of change, and a simple and natural bent towards self-indulgence… all significant obstacles. Let’s take them one by one.
1) Habit. “Leave me alone, I’m happy the way I am.”
Tough one, eh? Why do you want to make your partner unhappy?
Obviously, you don’t. The secret is to move him from one level of happiness, to another; one that’s different, but equal.
Is he REALLY happy being overweight; waking up with smokers’ cough; overindulging in alcohol and battling hangovers; and dulling his senses by spending hours in front of the TV?
Put like that, it doesn’t really sound like a pleasant way to live, does it?
It’s a vicious cycle: inactivity and alcohol consumption lead to weight gain, which in turn encourages inactivity. It’s up to you to help him break that cycle.
And what can you do, since nagging is notoriously ineffective?
Shop and cook healthier. Load up on calcium-rich foods – which doesn’t HAVE to mean dairy. There are plenty of calcium-enriched foods (OJ, cereal) that are easily substituted for non-enriched versions. Check out our post on 10 easy ways to add calcium to your diet.
Serendipitously, many of these foods are also high-fiber and low-fat, as well as high in calcium. Which means, eaten in moderation and substituted for his usual favorites, they’ll help him cut calories.
2) Lack of time for exercise. If your man is going every minute of the day – working out in the morning, doing lawn work before supper, playing with the kids – then he’s probably getting the 30 minutes of daily activity recommended by the NOF for good bone health.
But if he drives to a desk job, then comes home to a long evening of inactivity, he needs help getting off his duff and moving around.
I’ve found most men enjoy spending time with their wives. They also enjoy fixing things (yeah, he gets to use his tools!); and getting jobs done: e.g., moving that rosebush from point A to point B.
Doing yard work or house projects together is a natural solution. Hanging clothes on the line, mowing the lawn (one can mow while the other weed-whacks), stacking wood, weeding, washing the car, and painting house trim are all fairly simple outdoor activities you can pursue together. Put an oldies CD into the boombox, and have fun chatting and reminiscing as you work.
Indoors, ask him to help with the laundry by lugging wet clothes out to the yard, or loading them into the dryer. Afterwards, ask him to help fold, and carry to the bedrooms. If necessary, remind him that this is FAMILY work – not “woman’s work.”
I’ve noticed that pushing a vacuum cleaner is often something men enjoy; my dad was the self-designated vacuumer, as is my husband. Let ’em at it!
Finally, if child-care isn’t a consideration, take walks together, preferably early in the morning, before work. There’s nothing so relaxing as a walk with someone you love. Fresh air, quiet, and the chance to chat about nothing significant is a great way to start the day.
3) Fear of change. “I’m too old for this…” If that’s the response you get to your gentle prodding that he get out of his chair and get moving, challenge him. “You’re too old? Well, I’m not. Too bad I’m married to someone so OLD…”
Don’t be nasty about it, but let him know that older men who still think and act young are easier to be with than creaky old guys. Let him know that attitude has a lot to do with how old you feel. After all, attitude is the only thing we can truly control in our lives.
You’re as old as you choose to be. You can give up at 50… or at 90. Or never. Your choice.
Tell him nicely, then be a good example. If he won’t take a walk with you, go alone. Tell him how great you feel when you come back. Keep moving; keep smiling. Eventually he may get the hint that activity really does make you feel good – physically, and emotionally.
4) Self-indulgence. This is a tough one. Who doesn’t love hot fudge sundaes, chips, beer… and lying on the couch watching TV?
The secret is moderation. Make Wednesday night your regular Dairy Twirl date. Sitting in the car with the windows down, enjoying (small) ice cream cones together on a humid summer night, is a simple pleasure.
Or Sunday, late afternoon: crack a beer, break out some reduced-fat chips (honestly, with the better brands you can’t tell the difference), and watch a ballgame with him. (Remember what I said about most men secretly enjoying their wife’s company?)
The trick is to make it an infrequent but regular occurrence, so you can both look forward to it. Anticipation is half the pleasure.
So, there you have it – a whole bunch of things you can do to help ensure your favorite guy keeps his bones just as strong and healthy as yours are. Osteoporosis prevention isn’t just for women – it’s a family affair. And you’ll both be reaping the benefits for many (healthy) years to come.
Published On: June 09, 2010