Top 6 Risk Factors for Osteoporosis in Men
When you think about osteoporosis an image of an older woman may come to mind. We also think of frail women as someone who’d have a problem with bone loss and fractures. We’re told that you can have a widow’s hump, from declining bone architecture, but this mainly applies to women and we know that men and younger adults, male and female, can have osteoporosis or low bone mass known as osteopenia.
June is Men’s Health Month, so we’d like to tell you about the risk factors for osteoporosis that men need to watch for.
- Age: One of the issues men face with aging is gradual or sudden onset of bone loss. You may not even know you have this problem until you’ve had a fracture or you’ve lost some height. Since bone loss is linked to aging and hormonal loss, in some patients, you need to take proactive steps to prevent further structural bone decreases, by correcting hormonal levels, getting enough weight-bearing exercise, including enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet and making lifestyle changes; like giving up smoking or excess alcohol intake.
- Low testosterone: As men age, they may lose or have declining sex hormones, and this is one risk factor that can cause bone loss. Hormones are a key component to healthy bones, so if you have a low testosterone level, you may also lose bone density in the process. Men generally find out about this hormone loss when blood tests are completed by their doctor as a result of side effects due to low T. Your doctor may then prescribe testosterone and other sex hormones to balance your hormone levels. Unfortunately, your bone mass may have already declined, resulting in low Z-scores. This treatment will help, but it doesn’t happen overnight, so follow you doctors’ advice to restore you hormone levels, to prevent further destruction of bone.
- Low intake of calcium and vitamin D: Are you really getting enough calcium and vitamin D, from your diet or multi-vitamin to stave off bone loss? Most of us think we are if our diet is good and we get plenty of dairy products, fish and green leafy vegetables. However, we may not be absorbing these nutrients efficiently, causing low calcium and vitamin D levels. We know we can get D from the sun, but we may also have concerns about exposing our skin to the sun’s rays, or have a history of melanoma causing us to under-expose our skin while in the sun. Due to calcium and vitamin D’s importance, be sure to have these two nutrients checked on a regular basis, so you’ll know how much more you need to supplement through your diet or vitamins and minerals.
- Lack of exercise: Do you lack the time needed to get plenty of exercise? Does your job demand too much of your time, and you end up missing the exercise that is vital to your health? If this sounds like your situation, you should try to incorporate as much weight bearing exercise, as you can, by starting with exercise you enjoy and increase the length of time you dedicate to it on a weekly basis. You can start out with 15 minutes and gradually increase that to 30 minutes, 3-5 days a week. Once you get used to including this in your day, you will find it easier to accomplish going forward and you’ll notice how much better you feel.
- Smoking: Cigarette smoking causes an increase in free radicals which destroys our body and our bones. Free radicals attack our bodies’ natural defenses, which can cause a cascade of damaging cells attacking everything in its path; cells, organs, bones and soft tissue. If you smoke, quit now, but get some help from your doctor and through smoking cessation programs that involve personal support through groups and one of the many prescribed or over-the-counter smoking cessation products.
- Medications that can cause bone loss: Many prescribed medications can cause bone loss. One that most of us are aware of is cortisone, used to treat pain, inflammation, asthma, arthritis and other muscle and joint diseases and injuries. If you need to know the other meds that can lower your bone mineral density, here’s a list from the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Share this information with a friend during Men’s Health Month so you both can have healthy bones now, and in the future.
National Osteoporosis Foundation (2014). Just for Men. Retrieved June 7, 2014 from http://nof.org/articles/236