Quite often, men have a misconception that they have a lower risk of bone loss than women since they have bigger bones. In fact, this is not true! Men are also vulnerable to bone loss conditions like osteoporosis or osteopenia (thinning of the bones) though the onset may take 10 years later as compare to women.
Studies show that out of the 40 million patients who are at risk for low bone mass and osteoporosis, 30% of them are men. In addition, estimates from the National Institutes Of Health suggested that about 12 million men have osteoporosis and 13 million men have osteopenia.
Though in recent years, many advertisements or the media has focus on osteoporosis in men, many of them actually do not know the risk of bone loss, how it affected them, how it can increase the risk of fractures and how it can be prevented and treated.
Understanding The Stages Of Bone Cycle
Childhood stage: Rate of bone building is faster than the rate of bone loss
Bone is in fact a complex, living tissue that goes through the constant process of breaking down old bones and rebuilding the new ones. This whole process is known as bone remodelling. During the childhood stage, more bone is built than removed.
Therefore, it is usually at this stage whereby the bones will become larger and stronger (growing stage). Generally, by the age of 20 to 30, 95% of the skeleton bones will reach its peak bone mass. It is also believed that the more bones that is stored in your body now, the more you will have to draw on when you aged.
Age 30 to 35: The rate of bone loss is equivalent to the rate of bone building
As we reached into the medium-aged range between 30 to 35 years old, the amount of bone that breaks down in the body actually catches up with the rate of bone rebuilding.
Age 35 to 50: The rate of bone loss exceeds bone building
This is the stage whereby the body is slowly losing its bone mass and less bone is being replaced. For woman, this stage is also known as perimenopause, period before menopause when the level of estrogen starts to decline. It is at this time that the natural bone-building cycle is disrupted that leads to a decrease in net bone mass.
Age 50 onwards: The rate of bone loss accelerates
At this stage, there is a rapid loss of bone mass that can results in fractures easily if preventive measures or the intake of dietary and calcium supplements are insufficient. For woman, this is known as menopause stage where the level of estrogen drops at a dramatic rate, leading to rapid bone loss. This explains why osteoporosis and bone fractures are much more common in women than in man.
Still, just like women, men are also at an exposed risk to osteoporosis. Researchers have found that among men with hip fractures, 50% of them is not able to recover fully and 25% actually required long-term nursing home care.
And the alarming fact is men are exposed to higher risk of death as compare to women who have hip fractures! Researchers reported that the risk of death in the first year after hip fracture increases with age and can reach 50% by the age of 70 to 80.
Not only that, it is also a fact that even men received treatment or surgery on hip fracture, they are not receiving bone-strengthening medication to build bone or adopt preventive measures. Other common fracture sites include the wrist and the vertebrae.
Therefore, early treatment or prevention strategies when started early can help increase bone mass and prevent fractures in men. However, all these must start from a bone density test or personal assessment of current bone health.
9 Risk Factors For Osteoporosis In Men
Height Loss: If you noticed that you are not as tall as before (lost of height), it could means that the bones of the spine is shortening (compression fractures) due to osteoporosis. It is recommended you go for a bone density test and start treatment.
Spine Fractures: Usually, this is not known until a chest X-ray is done as part of your routine health check. In fact, spine fracture is a warning sign of osteoporosis. If treatment is not administered early, the risk of getting more spine or hip fracture and height loss is higher.
Any Fracture After Age 50: If you experienced any fractures after the age of 50, it is advisable to go for a bone density test as this could be a signal of low bone mass.
Back Pain After Age 50: If you do not have any injury and there is a sudden onset of back pain, it could be the cause of spine fracture. Therefore, it is advisable to go for an X-ray or bone density test to confirm the diagnosis of osteoporosis.
Increased Age: Though the idea of getting older is commonly detested, but aging is a process that we have no control of. Experts recommended that men who are 65 years old and above to go for a bone density test (Even there are no records of bone fractures).
Alcohol And Smoking: Excessive alcohol consumption of more than 3 drinks a day and smoking increases the risk of rapid loss of bone mass. If you are 50 years old and above, it is wise to go for early treatment and adopt prevention strategies.
Medical Problems That Causes Osteoporosis: Usually, fatigue, loss of sex drive and other medical problems are caused by a low-level of the male hormone testosterone. In fact, low testosterone is a common cause of low bone mass and osteoporosis which can be treated easily with medications. Other medical problems include high or low calcium levels in blood, severe liver and AIDS or HIV disease.
Family History Of Osteoporosis: Many studies indicated that genetic factor may play a role for explaining bone loss in men. Therefore, if any of your family members have history of stooped posture, height loss or hip fractures, consider going for a bone density test.
Kidney Stones: A study published in the July 2003 issue of the New England Journal Of Medicine gives evidence that men who have kidney stones are at a higher risk of osteoporosis. Though the exact cause is not known, it is advisable to go for a bone density test.
5 Prevention Strategies For Osteoporosis In Men
Prevention Strategy 1: Personal Assessment Of Your Risk
As the saying goes:”Prevention is always better than cure!” Therefore, it is essential to review your current bone health conditions based on the list of risk factors discussed previously. If you have 2 out of the 9 risk factors, it is recommended to go for a bone density test, early diagnosis and treatment.
Prevention Strategy 2: Start Exercising Regularly
Perhaps exercising is an unbelievable strategy as it is logical that the more you move your body, the risk of getting fractures or falling down is higher. But from the medical science of view, exercise does help to keep the bones strong and strengthen your muscles which provide a good support to the joints.
Even if you have suffered a fracture before, exercise can actually shorten your recovery time and reduce the intensity of pain. So the question is: “what type of exercises is suitable for me?”
This form of exercise trains your body to resist the force of gravitational pull on your body. Examples of these exercises is walking, dancing, jogging, climbing stairs, yoga, tai chi, pilates and water aerobics.
Weight-bearing exercises is essential as it increases the bone mass by stimulating cells in the body that make new bones. By performing these exercises regularly, it actually encourages to build more bone, thereby delaying or reversing the onset of osteoporosis and fractures.
In addition, with the resistance and weights added to the exercises, your joints become stronger and flexible which reduce the likelihood of falling (The number 1 risk factor of hip fracture).
One study was conducted on more than 800 older adults. These adults were asked to walk at least 20 to 30 minutes per day. The results show that these participants had denser bone mass as compare to inactive adults of the same age group.
If you have not been exercising but like the idea of making a change in your sedentary lifestyle, you can start walking for 5 to 10 minutes a day. Once you have build up the endurance and strength of your body, you can then try to walk 30 to 45 minutes for 5 days a week.
Strength or resistance exercise
This form of exercise helps to lower the risk of bone loss by causing the muscles to pull on the bone, thereby increase the strength of the bone. Consider low-resistance exercises in the initial stage by using an elastic resistance band, your own body weight, lifting bags of groceries or fruits (For example pineapples, water-melon and apples).
Once you are used to these basic weights, you can advanced to moderate-intensity resistance such as ankle and wrist weights or medium-strength exercise band. The next stage will include high-intensity exercises that involve the use of heavier barbells or even weight machines.
Many studies have actually show that there is a significant progressive relationship between total weights lifted and the increase in bone density. Some of the other beneficial effects of such exercises include increased bone mass, strength and power of the muscles as well as functional independence. In addition, strength or resistance exercises can be used to build muscles in the back, thereby adding strength to the entire skeleton with the increase of the bone density in the spine.
Prevention Strategy 3: Include Bone-building Foods In Diet
Make sure you are feeding your bones with high-calcium foods or bone-building nutrients. Many evidences from research studies confirmed that providing right amount of nutrients to the bones is one of the preventive measures against osteoporosis in men.
In general, nutrients are special compounds that support the body’s natural repair ability, growth as well as improving overall wellness of the health. These nutrients can range from vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, protein, carbohydrate, amino acids and many more.
So what are the specific nutrients that really build bones? Since 99% of the calcium in our body is found in the bones, the first and foremost essential nutrient is definitely CALCIUM of course! Besides, in today’s society, calcium deficiency has become a growing concern and that it is directly responsible for low bone mass, rapid bone loss and high fracture rates.
Recommended Calcium Intakes
- Children ( 6 to 10 years): 800-1200 mg per day
- Young adults (11-24 years): 1200-1500 mg per day
- Adult Men (25 to 65 years): 1000 mg per day
- Adult Men (65 years and above): 1500 mg per day
Calcium can be found in foods like low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, salmon with bones as well as calcium-fortified juices, cereals and breads.
Some other important bone-building nutrients are as below:
Vitamin C – It is an antioxidant that helps your body to synthesize collagen. Though it may not be a key nutrient, but research studies indicate that there is a positive relationship between vitamin c and bone density. Vitamin C can be derived from berries, citrus juices, green or red peppers, spinach or potatoes.
Vitamin D – It actually act as a “booster” that helps the bones to absorb calcium effectively. Deficiency in vitamin D can also results in reduced muscles strength and cause the body to be easily vulnerable to falls. Vitamin D can either be obtained through the skin under sunlight or food choices including milk, tuna or fortified breakfast cereals.
Vitamin K – It is a crucial nutrient that plays an important role in calcium absorption and indirect role in preventing low bone density. Best food sources that contain vitamin K include soybean oil, green leafy vegetables, broccoli and fish oil.
Other trace minerals – These include phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, boron, fluoride, manganese and zinc. Though the specific role of each of these trace minerals in bone loss or strength is not well defined yet, they are actually crucial for growth and development of the bones as well as the rate of bone metabolism.
Prevention Strategy 4: Take Caution Step To Avoid Falls
Besides exercising to maintain your overall fitness (Prevention strategy 2) in order to take firm and steady steps as you move around, it is also important that you exercise caution. This helps to minimize the risk of accidental falls.
On the other hand, avoid drinking too much alcohol as you may slip and fall when you are drunk. If you have osteoporosis, consider wearing hip protectors which can lower the risk of hip fractures by 50% when you fall.
Prevention Strategy 5: Adopt Integrative Medicine Approach
By incorporating the safest and most effective combinations of natural supplements and conventional bone-boosting medications, your bones are able to receive the maximum bone-building benefits.
Generally, it is advisable to consult a registered dietitian about your specific vitamin and mineral needs taking consideration of your age, current osteoporosis condition and medications. If there is a need for you to take bone-boosting medication, results may not been seen till after a few years. Besides, medications come with side effects and add on to your health care expenses. As such, you should discuss with your doctor and explore several bone-building strategies before you decide.
Remember, osteoporosis in men is an emerging problem that exists in all societies. As a matter of fact, it can develop in every one of us regardless of gender. Still, on our part, we can delay the process or slow down the rate of bone loss by adopting the prevention strategies for osteoporosis. It is never too late if you take action now! So why wait? Why let osteoporosis disrupt your active and quality lifestyle?