Osteoporosis and Men: Fighting the Myth

Millions of men are at risk for bone loss disease, too

doctor looking at bones in xray film

We tend to associate osteoporosis, or the loss of bone density, with women. But 1.5 million men over age 65 have osteoporosis, and another 3.5 million are at risk for the disease.

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Osteoporosis in men is often associated with:

  • Prolonged exposure to medications that impact bone density —These include steroids, anticonvulsants, cancer therapies and aluminum-containing antacids.
  • Chronic illnesses that can decrease bone density — These include kidney problems, lung conditions, hyperthyroidism, parathyroid disease, malabsorptions and other digestive problems.
  • Vitamin D deficiency

Risk factors that affect men and women equally include a family history of osteoporosis, smoking, excessive drinking, low calcium intake and a sedentary lifestyle.

If your bone mineral density is lower than expected and your doctor can find no explanation, you may need more tests, says Abby Abelson, MD, Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Disease.

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Dr. Abelson says that these diseases can trigger osteoporosis in men:

  • Intestinal disorders — Poor absorption of bone-boosting nutrients can result in osteoporosis. Bone loss also happen when people take steroids to treat ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements plus osteoporosis medication can offset the problem.
  • Prostate cancer — If men are taking the androgen-reducing drug leuprolide, it can predispose them to low bone mass and fractures. It’s important to monitor your bone density during prostate cancer treatment.
  • Hypogonadism — When men produce less testosterone, it can affect the strength of their bones. Sometimes, this is hard to detect. But the good news is that male hormone replacement therapy can correct it.
  • HyperparathyroidismOveractivity of the parathyroid glands can factor in to triggering osteoporosis. These secrete a hormone that maintains proper calcium levels in the blood and bones. A growth on the parathyroid gland can cause the condition, which doctors treat with surgery.

Don’t let misconceptions prevent you from attending to your bone health. Men get osteoporosis, and when men sustain the fractures from this disease, they may suffer more from the devastating consequences. Be aware of bone health even if you’re male — and take preventive steps when needed.

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