Can men get osteoporosis or is it primarily a problem for women? When I fell and broke my wrist last winter the doctor that treated me told me I might have osteoporosis, but I never got it checked. What can you tell me?
Many people think of osteoporosis primarily as a disease that affects women, but men can get it too, especially in their later years. Here are some things you should know.
Osteoporosis in Men
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones to become weak, brittle and more susceptible to fractures. Though women are four times more likely to acquire it, around 2 million American men have osteoporosis today and another 12 million have "pre-osteoporosis" or osteopenia.
Unfortunately, men are much less likely than women to get the health of their bones checked even after they break a bone. Doctors may overlook many factors that put men at risk of osteoporosis.
While menopause is a major component that accelerates bone loss in women, some of the key risk factors for men developing osteoporosis include: being over age 70; being thin or underweight; smoking; consuming more than three alcoholic drinks a day; having a family history of osteoporosis; and having a previous fracture.
Certain health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, testosterone deficiency, hyperthyroidism, COPD, kidney or liver disease, mobility disorders such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or stroke can also increase your risk. Additional risk factors include, taking certain medications like anti-inflammatory steroids, prostate cancer drugs, proton pump inhibitors for GERD, antidepressants, immunosuppressants and anti-seizure drugs.
To help you determine your risk of osteoporosis, the International Osteoporosis Foundation has a quick online quiz you can take at RiskCheck.IOFBoneHealth.org.
Prevention and Treatment
A good first step in preventing and treating osteoporosis is to get screened. All men over age 70 should have a bone density test. Those who have had a fracture or have other risk factors should also be tested after age 50. Screening for osteoporosis is a simple and painless bone density test, which takes about five minutes. Many health insurance companies will cover bone density tests, as does Medicare.
Here are some other ways you can protect your bones:
Boost your calcium: The best way to get bone-building calcium is through your diet. Dairy products (low-fat milk, cheeses and yogurt), dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards), sardines, salmon, cooked dried beans, soy foods, almonds, fortified cereals and juices are all good sources of calcium. Vitamin D is also important to help your body absorb calcium.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1,000 mg of calcium daily for men under age 70, and 1,200 mg for those over age 71. They also recommend 800 to 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D for those over 50 years of age. If you are not getting enough vitamin D through sunlight or food, consider taking a supplement. Most daily multivitamins contain at least 400 IU. Please consult your physician before changing your diet or introducing supplements.
Exercise: Weight-bearing exercises like walking and strength training with weights or resistant bands three or four times a week can significantly improve your bone health and reduce the risk of a fall that could cause a fracture.
Control vices: Avoid smoking, limit alcohol to no more than two or three drinks per day and limit caffeine intake (coffee, tea or soda) to three cups a day.
Consider medications: The same medications used to treat osteoporosis in women have also been approved for men. The most widely prescribed medications for osteoporosis are bisphosphonates, a class of drugs designed to slow or stop bone loss. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors to determine if osteoporosis screening is appropriate. If you need treatment, discuss these and other options as well as the potential side effects.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.