Men Can Get Osteoporosis Too, Warns John Von Arnim.
What do you think of when you hear the word osteoporosis? Probably a little old lady with a widow’s hump struggling across a pedestrian crossing. Yet one in three men in Australia over the age of 60 will suffer a bone fracture due to osteoporosis.
The warning signs start much earlier than most guys think. Bone mass starts to drop at the age 30 because testosterone, the male sex hormone that diminishes with age, is crucial in maintaining bone mass, too. Men with low testosterone levels are even more in danger of bone thinning and a decreased muscle mass, leading to a higher risk of bone fracture as they age.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a gradual weakening of the bones that results from loss of bone mass with age or because of disease. Pain, a loss of height and a high risk of fractures in the wrists, ribs, arm, hips and spine are the most common side-effects of the condition. Doctors use bone density measurements to diagnose osteoporosis and recommend regular screening for people over 65. Earlier screening is recommended for people with a genetic history of osteoporosis or who have broken a bone after the age of 50.
Lifestyle factors also increase the rate of bone loss. It’s not hard to guess many of the usual suspect culprits— a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, low calcium intake and Vitamin D deficiency. A history of bone fractures, the ongoing use of drugs such as corticosteroids (used for asthma, arthritis and kidney disease), anticonvulsants (used for epilepsy and certain psychiatric disorders) and certain hormonal drugs used to treat prostate cancer can also elevate the risk of osteoporosis. Your ethnicity also has an impact. The American College of Physicians recently reported that seven per cent of Caucasian men, five per cent of African-American men and three per cent of Hispanic men over the age of 60 have diagnosed osteoporosis, with another 20 to 25 per cent of Caucasian men at risk of developing the condition. Being under weight and having an overactive thyroid can also trigger osteoporosis.
Prevention is always preferable to a cure. Throughout adult life doctors recommend that men under 50 should have a daily intake of 1000mg of calcium and 400 to 800iu of Vitamin D, which is provided by three serves of dairy products a day. Regular weight-bearing and muscular strengthening exercises also help to keep bones strong. Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol reduces the risk of osteoporosis, too.
The two most common medications used in Australia for the treatment of osteoporosis are biophophonates — taken orally or intravenously to help to grow and increase bone mass. Another drug — teriparatide — is administered only by daily injection and also aids in increasing bone mass. Men who suffer from low testosterone levels can increase their bone density with a series of testosterone therapies, diagnosed to suit their individual needs.