Men Also at Risk for Osteoporosis
By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
Osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become weak and more likely to break, has long been considered a “women’s disease.” Drugs to prevent or treat it have been marketed exclusively to women. Sally Field’s Boniva commercials were ubiquitous enough to merit a “Saturday Night Live” parody.
Osteoporosis gets its reputation as a women’s disease for good reason – it does primarily affect women. However, about 20 percent of osteoporosis cases occur in men. In the US, more than 40 million people are affected by osteoporosis. Men and women both deserve to receive the same preventative message – it’s estimated that 12 million men are currently at risk for osteoporosis. Certain lifestyle habits put both genders at risk, but many men don’t know that they’re increasing their chances of losing mobility and independence to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is linked to a number of risk factors, some of which can be controlled.
Factors that can’t be controlled include:
- Gender: Women are at greater risk of osteoporosis.
- Age: As we age, the risk of osteoporosis increases.
- Body size: Petite women are at greater risk.
- Genetic background: If osteoporosis runs in the family, your chances of developing the disease are increased.
There are a number of behaviors that increase the risk of osteoporosis. It’s well within our power to avoid them! The risky behaviors include:
- Smoking: Let this be a rule of thumb – cigarettes are always a bad idea. Smoking negatively affects your bone density. Quit smoking and you’ll enjoy a host of improved health benefits.
- Overindulging in drinking: All good things in moderation. Drinking heavily can cause bone loss, so don’t binge.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Your bones (and body) are stronger when you incorporate activity and strenuous exercise into your lifestyle. People with a sedentary lifestyle are at an increased risk of osteoporosis.
- Poor diet: A balanced diet is essential to good health. People who don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D increase their risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Osteoporosis usually isn’t apparent until you break or fracture a bone. Your doctor will use a bone mineral density test to diagnose you, and then prescribe a method of treatment. Treatment may include medications, but the best treatment is also the best prevention: incorporating calcium and vitamin D into your diet, exercising, and cutting out unhealthy practices. Osteoporosis typically begins to affect people in their 50s, but it’s never too early to incorporate preventative practices into your lifestyle.
Practices to Lower Your Risk of Osteoporosis
- Begin a regular exercise regimen. Exercise is medicine, and we should all be getting a daily dose. Strength training exercises like sit-ups, push-ups and lifting weights are great for increasing bone density. When you force your muscles and bones to bear weight, you increase your bone density.
- Eat a balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables, a reasonable portion of meat, grains and dairy will keep you in good health. Your bones require calcium and vitamin D to maintain their density. As we age, the amount of calcium and vitamin D we require changes. You can find a helpful chart here. Good sources of the nutrients your bones need include yogurt, low-fat milk and cheese. Not a fan of dairy? Turn to spinach, kale, collards, okra, or soybeans. Ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D by taking a daily vitamin.
- Ditch bad habits. Smoking, spending too much time sitting down in front of a screen, and drinking too much don’t do you any favors. Find replacement activities and invite friends or family along.
For more resources directed to men about osteoporosis, check out these websites.