While many see osteoporosis as a disease that affects mostly women, it also poses a serious threat to the health and wellness of millions of men. It is estimated that osteoporosis affects one in four men over the age of 50 and may progress without symptoms until a bone fracture occurs. Approximately two million American men have osteoporosis and close to 80,000 men break a hip each year due to the disease.
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that causes them to weaken and can result in painful bone fractures. Primary osteoporosis is caused by age-related bone loss while secondary osteoporosis is caused by disease, certain medications and lifestyle habits.
“While osteoporosis is seen less frequently in men than in women because age-related bone loss starts later in life for men and they do not experience periods of rapid hormonal change, causes of secondary osteoporosis and increased life expectancy put men at greater risk,” explains Dr. Louis Christiansen, Department of Endocrinology, Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. Statistics tell us that the majority of men with osteoporosis have one or more secondary causes such as the following:
- Alcohol abuse
- Use of steroid medications
- Asthma and chronic pulmonary disease
- Lack of regular exercise
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Low testosterone levels
- Family history of broken bones or osteoporosis
Osteoporosis in men can be treated if diagnosed before bone loss or fractures occur. If you have risk factors related to the secondary causes of osteoporosis or are experiencing back pain, loss of height or a change in posture, you should talk to your doctor about prevention and treatment options. If you have a family history of bone fractures or osteoporosis, you may also be at risk of developing the disease and should find out what you can do to protect your bones.
“Your doctor may order a complete medical history, x-rays, urine and blood tests along with a bone mineral density test, which can identify osteoporosis and determine your risk for broken bones,” says Dr. Christiansen. “A dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry test, also known as a DEXA test, is another option that painlessly measures your bone density at the hip and spine.”
If a diagnosis of osteoporosis is determined, your doctor might prescribe medication to reduce your fracture risk. While there is not a cure for osteoporosis, FDA-approved medicines can help slow or stop the progression of bone loss. Your doctor may also work with you to create a plan that includes proper nutrition, muscle-strengthening and weight-bearing exercise, and the cessation of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Calcium and vitamin D supplements may also be suggested to further reduce your risk of fracture.
Osteoporosis in men is not an inevitable part of aging. With help from your doctor, you can reduce your risk of developing the disease or manage the condition from progressing to avoid painful bone fractures and improve your quality of life.