A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Osteoporosis: Not just for women

Illustration - Mustached man on orange backgroundOsteoporosis is only something for older women to be concerned about, right?

Wrong! This disease, which causes the skeleton to weaken and the bones to break, is also a major threat to millions of men.

1 in 4 will develop osteoporosis

As many as half of all women and a quarter of men older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We do see a lot of men for analysis of bone density,” said Dr. Michael Sheehan, a Marshfield Clinic endocrinologist. “However, most people don’t realize it’s a men’s health issue as well as a women’s health issue.”

While osteoporosis is more common among women, likely due to the effects of menopause, men need to take it seriously.

Men have more health problems

“Even though women have more fractures than men, when men do suffer a fracture – and particularly a hip fracture – they tend to have more complications,” Sheehan said. “Part of that is because, in general, men have more health problems than women.”

In particular, men tend to have more heart disease and lung disease, putting them at greater risk for complications.

Osteoporosis in men is finally getting more respect as a public health issue because the number of men over 70 continues to increase as life expectancy rises. In addition, some of these men have adopted unhealthy lifestyles that include alcohol abuse and smoking – both decrease bone density – and little if any exercise, essential for maintaining healthy bones.

Awareness is still a problem for men and women alike because osteoporosis is a “silent disease,” frequently undetected until a bone is fractured, Sheehan said. If diagnosed early, osteoporosis can often be treated with medications. But prevention is always better.

What can be done?

A medical work-up to diagnose osteoporosis will normally include a complete medical history, X-rays and urine and blood tests. The doctor may also order a bone mineral density test to verify a diagnosis of osteoporosis, determine risk of fractures, and measure response to treatment.

You also can take preventive steps to reduce your risk for osteoporosis.

“Be sure you’re getting enough calcium and Vitamin D. Many people are not,” Sheehan said.

Because dosage recommendations for supplements can vary by age, it’s a great discussion to have with your personal physician.

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