Older Men Need to Embrace Diet, Exercise to Avoid Osteoporosis

Patient Expert

I can hear middle-aged people saying now, "Osteoporosis is a woman's issue." However, that statement is not telling the whole story. While it is fairly common knowledge that women have a high risk of developing this condition after the age of 50, it's less well-known that men also are at risk as they age.

In fact, according to a new report by the International Osteoporosis Foundation, men's risk of developing osteoporosis in their later years is greater than their risk of developing prostate cancer. Researchers have found that 20 percent of men over the age of 50 will experience a fracture during their lifetime. Furthermore, 50 percent of those who have one fracture will experience at least one additional break. One-third of hip fractures occur in men, who are 37 percent more likely to die in the year following the fracture than women.

The foundation's report warns that because the number of men who are age 60 and above will increase substantially by 2050, steps need to be taken now to protect men's bone health.  Scarily, only about 20 percent of men are currently assessed and treated for osteoporosis.

Experts believe that a fracture caused by osteoporosis occurs in men or women every three seconds. While osteoporosis will affect a person's entire skeleton, fractures occur most frequently in the spine, wrist, hip, pelvis, upper arm, and lower leg.

So what can men do to protect their bones as they age? Researchers have identified several strategies, many of which involve exercise and diet:

  • Begin taking action today In one study, bone loss was found to start soon after men reached their peak bone mass in their youth. In fact, bone loss in the hip was found as early as the age of 19. Furthermore, the researchers' analysis of the fathers of the young men who took part in this study suggested that the fathers had lost 25 percent of the bone mineral density in their hips by the age of 50. Longitudinal studies suggest that the rate of bone loss accelerates in men once they reach 70 years of age. Researchers who reviewed the literature found that men who were over the age of 70 were 50 percent more likely to have fragile bones and suffer a fracture than younger men.
  • Take part in regular moderate-impact weight-bearing physical activity (such as walking), high impact training or related impact loading sports. Men should try to do these for at least 30 minutes on 3-5 days each week. Regular exercise also is important because it also lowers the risk of falls.
  • Lift weights. Muscle-strengthening exercises should be performed at least twice a week. The intensity should be 60-80 percent of peak capacity and should become progressively more challenging over time. The exercises should target the major muscles around the hip and spine. Researchers have found that three exercises can really be helpful: the dumbbell shoulder press, concentration curls for the biceps, and lunges. Additionally, exercise classes that incorporate the kettleball can be especially beneficial.
  • Focus on the core. Crunches, push-ups and yoga moves such as the superman pose help engage the abdomen and back muscles.
  • Incorporate a multi-facet exercise regimen at least three times a week. This regimen should include weight-bearing exercises, high impact exercises and high-intensity resistance exercises.
  • Get the recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D. Good sources of calcium include yogurt, collard greens, skim milk, black-eyed peas, canned salmon, calcium-set tofu, pasteurized American cheese, trail mix, baked beans, cottage cheese, iceberg lettuce, green peas, soy milk, oranges and almonds. Calcium supplements should be considered if a man does not get 1,000-1,2000 mg daily. Vitamin D can be accessed through short-term exposure to the sun or by eating salmon, sardines, tuna, cow's milk, eggs and shiitake mushrooms.
  • Lower your consumption of alcohol. Men who drink more than two alcoholic beverages daily have a 38-percent increased risk of suffering any type of fragility fracture as well as a 68-percent increased risk of a hip fracture.
  • Other secondary causes of osteoporosis should be watched. These include hypogonadism (a serum testosterone level that's less than 300 ng/dL), androgen deprivation therapy for metastatic prostate cancer, taking glucocorticoids (which are used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatological diseases), Cushing's syndrome, chronic corticosteroid use, and smoking. Family history also may play a factor in development of osteoporosis in men.

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

George Mateljan Foundation. (ND). Vitamin D.

Harvard School of Public Health. (ND). Calcium sources in food.

International Osteoporosis Foundation. (2014). Osteoporosis in men: Why change needs to happen.

Oaklander, M. (2014). Age-proof your muscles. Time Magazine.