Osteoporosis: Not Just a Women's Disease
Although it’s often connected to post-menopausal women, men are not exempt from the bone damage and weakness of osteoporosis. Women do develop osteoporosis more often than men, as men tend to have larger skeletons, and they do not go through the hormonal changes that cause bone loss in women. However, bone density can suffer due to genetics, lifestyle, nutrition and fitness routine regardless of your gender.
Statistics show that more men are affected by osteoporosis than you may imagine: up to 25% of men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis – more than will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Additionally, breaks from osteoporosis can be more dangerous for men than they are for women, as men are more likely to die within a year of breaking a hip than female patients.
However, there are specific steps men can take to better bone health with certain lifestyle changes and some help from their doctor.
Many of the risk factors for osteoporosis are the same for women and men, but there a few that apply uniquely to men. Some of the more common contributors to osteoporosis in men include:
- Excessive drinking
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Calcium and vitamin D deficiency
- Low testosterone levels
- Low estrogen levels
- Drugs for prostate cancer
- Corticosteroids (often used to treat autoimmune disorders)
In many cases, the root of the problem can be traced to hormonal changes. Male bodies naturally convert some testosterone to estrogen, and estrogen plays an important role in building bone mass in both women and men. When there’s a testosterone deficiency, or a lack of the naturally-occurring enzyme that creates estrogen, men can suffer from bone loss.
A number of chronic health conditions also increase a man's likelihood of developing osteoporosis, including:
- Systemic mastocytosis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Osteogenesis imperfecta
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Gastrointestinal disease
- Neoplastic disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Occasionally the medications used to treat these illnesses increase the risk of osteoporosis, and other times it is the condition itself that increases the risk.