It is a condition normally associated with
postmenopausal women but osteoporosis, or brittle bones, is also seen in men.
According to Dr. P. Peris of the University of Barcelona, "Osteoporosis in
men has received much less attention; however, it is increasingly recognized as
a problem in clinical medicine."
In a 1995 study published in the British
Journal of Rheumatology, Peris pointed out that 30 percent of all hip
fractures occur in men and that vertebral fractures are much more common in men
than previously thought. The female-to-male ratio is only 2-to-1. According to
Dr. Allan Gold, an endocrinologist and senior physician at the Montreal General
Hospital, a recent Canadian survey found that 20 percent of men have serious
bone loss in their vertebrae, and by age 70 the figure is as high as 30
percent. Gold said that "men in their 80s have a fracture rate that is
equal to women's."
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Strong bones require the action of two cells
in the body. Osteoblasts use dietary calcium and minerals to manufacture new
bone, while osteoclasts clear away old bone. When the clearing-away process
outpaces the formation of new bone, osteoporosis and its increased likelihood
of fractures results.
The main cause of osteoporosis is aging. The
sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone, hold the balance between bone renewal
and deterioration. Women who are entering menopause are briefed on the tools to
fight osteoporosis: exercise, a calcium-rich diet, and estrogen-replacement
therapy and other medications. Men in their 60s rarely receive any such medical
alert even though their testosterone levels decline, and some men suffer from
male menopause, or andropause. For those men and others, osteoporosis is a real
In addition to the decline in sex hormones,
certain other medical conditions and lifestyles predispose both men and women
to the dangers of osteoporosis at an earlier age than normal. Osteoporosis is
classified as primary or secondary. Primary osteoporosis develops without any
known risk factors, whereas secondary osteoporosis is the result of another
medical condition. Men frequently have an underlying secondary cause of
osteoporosis; men with such problems should be aware of the possibility of
osteoporosis and take necessary preventative measures.
Peris conducted one of the few studies done
on the cause of osteoporosis in men and found that secondary osteoporosis was
far more prevalent than primary (78 percent, as compared to 22 percent).
Hypogonadism was the most frequent condition associated with secondary
osteoporosis; it causes a decline in testosterone.
Corticosteroid prescription medications like
prednisone were a close second cause, followed by alcoholism. Other risk
factors are chronic bowel disease, which may result in malabsorption of
nutrients; hyperthyroidism; and smoking. Gold said that it isn't understood how
smoking contributes to the onset of the disease, but that people who smoke tend
to lose more calcium than nonsmokers.