Osteoporosis is a threat for Dad too

By Diane Ruyack

Father’s do get osteoporosis even though a majority of American men view osteoporosis solely as a “woman’s disease.”

June 19th is Father’s Day and an emphasis should be on persuading men to look at their lifestyle habits that put them at increased risk for this silent bone disease that can be a  threat to their mobility and independence.

Bone loss in men starts later and progresses more slowly. Bone is constantly changing—that is, old bone is removed and replaced by new bone. During childhood, more bone is produced than removed, so the skeleton grows in both size and strength. For most people, bone mass peaks during the third decade of life. By this age, men typically have accumulated more bone mass than women. After this point, the amount of bone in the skeleton typically begins to decline slowly as removal of old bone exceeds formation of new bone.

Fractures resulting from osteoporosis most commonly occur in the hip, spine, and wrist, and can be permanently disabling. Hip fractures are especially dangerous. Perhaps because such fractures tend to occur at older ages in men than in women, men who sustain hip fractures are more likely than women to die from complications.

The majority of men with osteoporosis have at least one (sometimes more than one) secondary cause. In cases of secondary osteoporosis, the loss of bone mass is caused by certain lifestyle behaviors, diseases, or medications. The most common causes of secondary osteoporosis in men include exposure to glucocorticoid medications, low levels of testosterone, alcohol abuse, smoking, gastrointestinal disease, and immobilization such as prolonged bed rest after surgery.

In men,  diagnosis of osteoporosi is often not made until a fracture occurs or a man complains of back pain and sees his doctor. This makes it especially important for men to inform their doctors about risk factors for developing osteoporosis, loss of height or change in posture, a fracture, or sudden back pain.

How can we preserve our Dad’s bone health?

Avoid smoking, reduce alcohol intake, and increase your level of physical activity.

Ensure a daily calcium intake that is adequate for your age.

Ensure an adequate intake of vitamin D. Dietary vitamin D intake should be 600 IU (International Units) per day up to age 70. Men over age 70 should increase their uptake to 800 IU daily (see table below). The amount of vitamin D found in 1 quart of fortified milk and most multivitamins is 400 IU.

Engage in a regular regimen of weight-bearing exercises in which bones and muscles work against gravity. This might include walking, jogging, racquet sports, climbing stairs, team sports, weight training, and using resistance machines. A doctor should evaluate the exercise program of anyone already diagnosed with osteoporosis to determine if twisting motions and impact activities, such as those used in golf, tennis, or basketball, need to be curtailed.

Discuss with your doctor the use of medications that are known to cause bone loss, such as glucocorticoids.

Recognize and seek treatment for any underlying medical conditions that affect bone health.


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