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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?

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

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
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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?