The main risk to bone health as we age is osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disorder that increases the risk of breaking a bone and developing painful skeletal deformities. While women are affected four times more often than men (the number is expected to reach 35 million this year), men are also at risk. In fact, the National Osteoporosis Foundation reports it is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions in older men. Some 14 million American men have osteoporosis or low bone mass (a precursor to this condition), with that number expected to rise to 17 million this year.
And while bones do become weaker as we age, aging alone is not the cause of osteoporosis. Contributing factors include small bone structure, low weight, low testosterone, and in women, menopause. Men on hormone therapy for prostate cancer are also at high risk. Other medications can also increase risks, including antacids containing aluminum, methotrexate (for cancer), heparin (a blood thinner), cholestyramine (for high cholesterol), and some seizure medications.
To reduce risks, men and women should increase calcium intake, stop smoking, keep alcohol consumption low, and exercise regularly, particularly with weight-bearing workouts such as walking.