Cause and risk of osteoporosis in men examine how this devastating condition that causes weakened bones also affects men. A lot has been written about the need to protect women from osteoporosis. But did you know that at least 2 million out of the 10 million people with osteoporosis are men? And about 4% to 6% of men older than 50 have osteoporosis. Likewise, 33% to 47% have osteopenia, a lesser diminished bone loss condition. Although osteoporosis develops less often in men than in women, men’s bone loss starts later and progresses more slowly.
How Serious Is The Cause And Risk Of Osteoporosis In Men?
Excessive bone loss causes your bone to become fragile and more likely to fracture. Fractures resulting from osteoporosis most commonly occur in your hip, spine, and wrist. And these can be permanently disabling. For instance, hip fractures are especially dangerous.
A Surprising Cause
In women, a drop in estrogen most commonly triggers osteoporosis during menopause. Estrogen is required to maintain bone density and strength. The most important male hormone, testosterone, is also critical for bone strength and density. So you should not be surprised to learn that osteoporosis in men results mainly from low levels of testosterone. This occurs either as a natural consequence of aging or from some underlying disorder. However, in recent years, men have faced another potential cause for testosterone deficiency which is the growing use of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) to “starve” prostate cancer cells. Unfortunately, over time surviving prostate cancer cells are able to grow even without testosterone.
While ADT was first used mainly to treat men whose prostate cancer was inoperable and widespread. Now it is also given to men at earlier stages of prostate cancer. And this puts men at higher risk for severe osteoporosis and fractures.
When Are You At Risk?
Osteoporosis is often thought of as a postmenopausal women’s disease. But men comprise 2 million of the estimated 10 million people with osteoporosis. Even though it begins later in men than in women. Then again, as more men survive into their 80s and 90s, there will be a match-up in the number of men living with osteoporosis.
Therefore, having one or more of the following factors increases your risk of developing osteoporosis, whether you are a man or a woman:
- Excessive alcohol intake. This is more than two drinks a day in men and more than one drink a day in women.
- Inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D.
- Lack of weight-bearing exercise.
- Cigarette smoking.
- Treatment with corticosteroids for asthma, rheumatic disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, or other diseases.
Your bone density can be measured by a machine that uses low levels of X-rays to determine the proportion of minerals in your bones. During this painless test, you lie on a padded table as a scanner passes over your body. In most cases, only certain bones in the hip and spine are checked. This is because the major dangers of osteoporosis are fractures of the spine and hip. Though the reasons are not clear, hip fractures take a greater toll on men than on women. About one-third of men who fracture a hip die within the next year.
Treatment recommendations are often based on an estimate of your risk of breaking a bone in the next 10 years. This is done through the bone density test. If your risk is not high, treatment might not include medication. But may focus instead on modifying risk factors for bone loss and falls. Thus, in general, the treatment of osteoporosis in men consists of lifestyle measures, hormonal therapy, and/or drug therapy.
Can Osteoporosis Be Reversed In Men?
The simple and short answer is No! Osteoporosis cannot be completely reversed and is not considered curable. Nonetheless, there are a number of health and lifestyle adjustments you can make to improve bone loss. Equally, your health provider may also prescribe medications to help you rebuild and slow down bone loss.
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