Think of osteoporosis as a woman's disease? Or is it not really on your radar at all? Know the facts so you can avoid getting a broken bone or worse as you get older.
"If a man falls and breaks his hip, he's more likely than a woman to have a major complication from it, including death or being confined to a wheelchair," says Gisele Wolf-Klein, MD, director of geriatric education at North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Osteoporosis affects up to 2 million aging men, while as many as 13 million men have the condition that comes before it, osteopenia, or low bone-mineral density. Wolf-Klein recently co-wrote a study that showed guys rarely get screened for osteoporosis, which indicates that many doctors also may not be aware of its impact on men.
Fortunately, you can do a lot to avoid getting the condition or live better if you have it. Here's how:
Share your history. Tell your doctor if osteoporosis runs in your family or if your father, uncles, or grandfathers had unexplained bone breaks.
"That is very relevant, as is information about any past fractures that you have had," Wolf-Klein says.
Also, make sure your doctor knows if you took steroids for asthma or other ailments as a child or young adult. Such medications can weaken developing bones.
Strengthen your bones. Do weight-bearing exercises to help prevent osteoporosis.
"Walking is fabulous and so is running, provided you run in the right kind of shoes so you don't jar your bones, your joints, your tendons," says Wolf-Klein, who also recommends lifting weights -- a reasonable amount and not to excess.
Talk to your doctor about the right exercises for you.
Eat right. "Nutrition," Wolf-Klein says, "is a keystone of prevention."
For bone protection, that means calcium and vitamin D, often in supplement form. Men are much less likely than women to take such bone-health boosters. Before popping supplements, though, check with your doctor.
"Doses need to be individualized," she says. "There's no cookie-cutter standard."
Wear the right shoes. If you have brittle bones, falls can be disastrous.
"Before you engage in any kind of activity, such as walking on cobblestones, climbing mountains, running, whatever it may be," Wolf-Klein says, "it's imperative that you have the proper footwear to prevent a fall that could result in a fracture."
Check your shoes to be sure the soles are still in good shape. Replace or resole them as necessary. "You have to have a pair of shoes that you can trust," she Wolf-Klein.
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