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Male Osteoporosis: Bone Mass Matters

20% of people with osteoporosis are men. What causes it, and what can you do about it?

Living With Male Osteoporosis continued...

Many men have spent a lifetime playing sports, so it may be easier to commit to exercise in their later years. And since the peak years to "bank" your calcium and bone density is during adolescence, men may have built up stronger bones over their years of high school and college sports. That comes in handy in later years, when bone-building has slowed.

Exercise can preserve bone mass -- especially if it's the right kind. Weight-bearing exercise and impact sports are best for maintaining bone mass, says the Surgeon General's report. Not "impact" as in helmet-crashing, contact sports like football -- but sports where, when your foot hits the ground, there's some force and impact there. Jogging, running around a basketball court, and jumping rope are high-impact. Walking, cross-country skiing, and inline skating are low-impact.

Ideally, the experts say, do at least:

  • 30 minutes of moderate activity, like brisk walking, on most days of the week
  • Strength training, like weight-lifting or resistance training with weight machines, twice a week

2. Bone Up on Calcium

The same advice for calcium holds true for men as for women. If you already have signs of low bone mass, here's the Surgeon General's recommendation:

  • 1,000 mg of calcium a day from ages 19 to 50
  • 1,200 mg of calcium a day if you're over 50

Be sure you're getting enough vitamin D, which you need to absorb calcium -- otherwise, all that calcium goes to waste. While the standard RDA (recommended daily allowance) for adults is 400 IU of vitamin D, some doctors suggest taking more.

"I'd say most people with osteoporosis should be on 800 IU a day," says Mystkowski. He advises even higher doses -- up to 1,200 IU of vitamin D a day -- if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia and live in a climate without much sun. That's because sunlight is the body's primary source of vitamin D.

Finally, check in with your doctor if you have any question about a possible hormone deficiency or medical condition that could be weakening your bones. Bone mass does matter. It can mean the difference between a hip fracture later in life -- or keeping an active, high-energy lifestyle.

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Reviewed on April 30, 2009
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Osteoporosis Glossary

  • Bone Mineral Density - A measurement of the amount of calcium and minerals in bone tissue.
  • Calcium - A mineral in (and vital to) your bones. If your body lacks calcium, it takes it from bones.
  • DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) - a test used to measure bone mineral density.
  • Osteoporosis - A decrease in bone density, which increase the risk of fractures.
  • Vitamin D - A vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium.
  • View All Terms

How do you exercise for strong bones?