Few men think about osteoporosis with any real concern. They assume it is mainly an ailment of elderly women past menopause. Well, pause – and think again. Not only is this silent disease also relevant to men, particularly over the ages of 65 – 70, but the number of men with osteoporosis is rapidly increasing. When you realise that 1 in 5 men over the age of 60 may develop a fracture related to osteoporosis – and that this figure is higher than those who may develop prostate cancer – it’s time to look at your bone health and the lifestyle you should follow to ensure that strong bones are with you well into old age.
A deathly silence
When young, our bones build up and reach their peak around 25-30 years of age. After this age, bone-turnover slows down and we all start losing bone density at a steady rate. The higher your peak bone density was, the more bone you therefore have to lose! As the bones weaken over time, becoming more porous, they become more susceptible to breakage. But because osteoporosis is a silent and painless disease, many people have no idea they have it until a serious facture takes place – most commonly in the hip, spine, or wrist.
While osteoporosis is more common in women – especially after the menopause when rapid loss of bone weakens the female bone structure – it is well to note that osteoporosis can occur in anyone of any age. Many people are living with risk factors and have no idea that their bones may be thinning and weakening because there are no symptoms. That is why a bone density test for everyone with known risk factors and those over the age of 65 is recommended.
Men in particular, do not like to think about their health, let alone their bone health. Nevertheless, surreptitiously, our lifestyles can negatively affect our health calendars. Obsessions with losing weight (a youth thing of both genders these days), overworking and not creating time for healthy exercise, eating mounds of quick, on the trot junk food, and enjoying too much time at the pub. All these activities – or lack of the right ones – put down-payment on deteriorating bones.
And treatment? Lies in your hands and in your knowledge. So, take note of following:
Some new and vital facts with regard to male osteoporosis
- By age 65 or 70, men and women are losing bone mass at almost the same rate, and the absorption of calcium is decreasing in both sexes.
- Because men have larger bones than women, they have a greater bone mass. This means they lose bone reserves more slowly. And because of this, they are often at an older age before experiencing a first fracture.
- However, men are living longer today, and therefore more likely to reach that age when their bones may thin enough for breakage. And because they are older when this damage takes place, they are more likely to suffer more serious consequences, or even death.
- Osteoporosis is often not recognised in men. There are many reasons for under-diagnosis in men. It is a silent disease, so men are not going to experience any symptoms before a fracture. And they also have a tendency to neglect regular full-scope checkups.
- Increasing awareness about the true frequency of osteoporosis in men is essential. Estimations regarding the growing frequency of the disease in men reflect that by 2030 the number of hip fractures in men could possibly rival that in women.
Risk factors and treatments
Men from all ethnic groups may develop osteoporosis. Age and heredity are clearly factors, but there are a number of issues to be avoided or investigated for preventative measures and proactive treatment:
- Smoking: Now known as a key factor in contributing to the deterioration of bones and advancing osteoporosis.
- Alcohol: Also, a contributing factor in weakening the skeletal structure if consumed in regular amounts over a long period of time. Curb that beer belly and that liquor bill, and save your bones.
- Vitamin D: In today’s world, many of us work long hours in offices under fluorescent lights. Then we exercise in a gym. Getting out into the sunshine is imperative if we want to absorb the vital Vitamin D our bones need. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium into the skeleton.
- Diet: Vitamin D is found in fortified dairy products, egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver. Because Vitamin D decreases in older people, in people who are housebound, and during the winter – you may need to ensure a daily intake of between 400 – 800 IU of Vitamin D. Likewise, you will need a daily dose of calcium of around 1,000 mg a day to age 50, and up to 1,200 mg a day for people over 50.
- Exercise: All exercise is good – particularly if outdoors such as walking, swimming, hiking, cycling, tennis. Indoors – climbing stairs and dancing are good! Gym-wise, the best exercise to prevent osteoporosis, is weight-bearing exercise that works against gravity. There is also resistance exercise which includes activities that use muscle strength to build muscle – and you get the double-plus of strengthening your bones at the same time.
- Drugs: They may not cause osteoporosis but they should be taken with care and assessment – such as: corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, heparin, and certain cancer therapies. Always discuss side-effects with your doctor. Any underlying medical conditions that may affect bone health should be determined and treated before damage can ensue.
Do your risk assessment
Test yourself right here with our quick assessment. Be informed, be forewarned – and take the appropriate action! Love your bones!
NOFSA (National Osteoporosis Foundation South Africa)
NOFSA is the only nonprofit, voluntary health organisation dedicated to promoting lifelong bone health. We focus on reducing the widespread prevalence of osteoporosis while working to find a cure for the disease, and by supporting research and developing programmes of education and advocacy.
Find out more about our work at: www.osteoporosis.org.za