Male Osteoporosis: Bone Mass Matters
20% of people with osteoporosis are men. What causes it, and what can you do about it?
Causes of Male Osteoporosis: Hanging Out, Rather Than Working Out
Your bones continually monitor the mechanical stress you put on them. Bone mass is a use-it-or-lose-it kind of thing, just like muscle. When muscle pulls on bone, the bone responds by growing.
But if you're not exercising, both bone and muscle weaken. A sad truth: The Surgeon General's report found that only about 35% of men aged 25 to 64 met the minimum exercise prescription -- a modest 30 minutes of moderate activity, like brisk walking, on most days of the week.
Studies have shown that exercise boosts bone mass -- but only at the sites of skeletal stress. Walking or jogging can increase bone density in the hips, but weight-lifting won't.
Causes of Male Osteoporosis: Medications That Reduce Bone Mass
A host of medications can lead to bone loss in men, just as they can for women. These "red flag" drugs include:
- Corticosteroids. These aren't muscle-building "steroids." They're anti-inflammatory steroids that dampen the body's immune response, also known as cortisone, hydrocortisone, glucocorticoids, and prednisone. These drugs, useful for treating everything from asthma to ulcers, can wreak havoc with bone. In one study, doses of prednisone higher than 7.5 mg a day shut down new bone growth completely -- and sped up the normal loss of old bone.
- Drugs for prostate cancer. Taking drugs called GnRH agonists, often used for men with prostate cancer, can lead to low bone mineral density (BMD) and a higher rate of fractures.
- Antiseizure drugs. These drugs have been associated with bone loss, especially for men who take long-term high doses and don't get enough calcium or vitamin D.
Talk with your doctor about your risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures if you're taking any of these "red flag" drugs. Together, you can weigh these potential risks against the benefits of these drugs for you.
Causes of Male Osteoporosis: Medical Conditions
A long list of diseases can lead to low bone mass, from genetic conditions like cystic fibrosis to diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and digestive and blood disorders. If you have any chronic condition -- especially if you've been taking medications for years -- it's even more crucial to maximize your diet and exercise to maintain your bone health.
Causes of Male Osteoporosis: Smoking
Smoking is not a good idea, especially for strong bones. Smokers have a higher risk of fracture -- a 55% higher risk of hip fracture than nonsmokers, as well as lower bone mineral density, says a 2004 analysis of 10 international studies. Nicotine has a direct toxic effect on bone cells.
Living With Male Osteoporosis
So what can you do to help your bones -- even if you've already been diagnosed with osteoporosis? Here are two lifestyle tips.
1. Exercise for Strong Bones