Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become thin and brittle, resulting in painful fractures. But osteoporosis is often incorrectly viewed as a “woman’s disease.” While it’s true that a man’s average bone density is higher than a woman’s and that women are at greater risk for the condition than men, men do naturally lose bone mass as they age — and some will develop osteoporosis.
June is Men’s Health Month, and we’d like to talk about bone mass. It matters! According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 2 million American men already have osteoporosis. Another 12 million men are at risk and may already have early signs of bone loss and low bone density, a condition called osteopenia.
Osteoporosis is considered a “silent disease” because it generally progresses without symptoms until a fracture occurs. There are two general types of osteoporosis:
- Primary osteoporosis: cases in which the condition is caused by age-related bone loss or where the cause is unknown.
- Secondary osteoporosis: cases in which there is at least one secondary cause, such as certain lifestyle behaviors, diseases, or medications. The most common causes of secondary osteoporosis in men include, but aren’t limited to, low testosterone levels, alcohol abuse, smoking, and gastrointestinal disease.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of men with osteoporosis have secondary osteoporosis.
Luckily, osteoporosis can be effectively treated if it’s detected before significant bone loss has taken place. Your doctor may order what’s called a “bone mineral density” test, sometimes referred to as a “DEXA scan.” DEXA scans are much like x-rays and will measure bone density at your hip and spine. If you’re diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor may prescribe medication and craft a treatment plan that includes nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle changes.
There are several steps you can take to preserve bone health.
First, avoid smoking and reduce the amount of alcohol you consume. Ensure that you’re getting enough Vitamin D and calcium for your age. If you’re not sure, ask your doctor. Finally, be as active as possible with a regular regimen of weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, stair-climbing, and body-weight exercises. As with any exercise regimen, check with your doctor before you get started and be sure that any underlying medical issues or old injuries have been addressed.
If you’ve got concerns about your bone density, check with your doctor and ask if a bone density test is right for you.