Risk Factors for Osteoporosis in Men

What are the risk factors for osteoporosis in men?

It is important for men to know their personal risk factors for osteoporosis. Many risk factors for osteoporosis in men are the same as those for women. For example, men and women may have certain diseases and/or take medications that increase the likelihood of bone loss and/or osteoporosis.

Testosterone is the major bone-protective hormone for men although estrogen also plays a role in bone health for men. At midlife, men do not experience an accelerated bone loss (as women do in the menopausal years) because testosterone levels continue to protect men’s bone until later in life. Instead, it is common for men to experience a later, slower bone loss around age 70 when there is an age-related decline in testosterone levels.

There are some diseases, conditions, or certain medications that can cause men to make too little testosterone. Low testosterone is a risk for bone loss that may lead to osteoporosis. It is important for men with low testosterone levels to speak to a healthcare provider about how to promote healthy bones.

Men with prostate cancer or other male cancers may need to take medications called gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, such as lupron or zoladex. These medications treat prostate cancer by decreasing testosterone levels. It is a priority to take the medication to treat prostate cancer but to be aware that by lowering testosterone levels there is an increased risk for bone loss and osteoporosis. It is important speak to your healthcare provider to discuss the many actions you can take for strong bones during and after cancer treatment.

What steps can promote stronger bones?

Eat a variety of healthy (nutrient-rich) foods. Make half your plate vegetables and fruit, add lean protein, include whole grains, select heart-healthy fats, and remember to include a calcium-rich food or drink at each meal. For more information about healthy food choices, go to www.choosemyplate.gov

Reach and maintain a healthy weight. Eat the amount of calories and protein you need. The amount that you need will depend on your height, weight, age, activity level, and medical condition.

Get the calcium you need. It is recommended that healthy adults consume 1000 to 1200 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. It is best to get calcium from the foods you eat. Foods rich in calcium such as low fat dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese), dark green leafy vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens), canned fish (sardines, salmon) eaten with bones, or calcium-fortified (with calcium added) foods. The body uses calcium best when it is spaced through the day. Try to eat a calcium rich food at each meal or snack. If you think that you are not getting the recommended amount of calcium in the foods you eat, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider to find out if a calcium supplement is right for you. Calcium supplements should not be taken without the advice of your healthcare provider. Too much calcium taken on a routine basis, particularly from supplements, may be harmful.

Get the recommended amount of vitamin D. There are only a few good natural sources of vitamin D including fatty fish such as catfish, eel, mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna and sun-dried shiitake mushrooms. Small amounts of vitamin D are added to all cow’s milk, some types of beverages (such as almond, coconut, rice, and soy beverages as well as orange juice), yogurt, cheese, and nutrition bars. Adults under 50 years of age should consume 400-800 international units (IU) or 10-20 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D daily. Adults 50 years of age and above should consume 800-1000 IU or 20-25mcg daily. Your healthcare provider may recommend more vitamin D than above stated amounts based on your individual needs.

Be physically active. Your bones get stronger and denser when you make them work. Walking, climbing stairs, and dancing are impact (or weight-bearing) exercises that strengthen your bones by moving your body against gravity when you are standing. Resistance exercises such as lifting weights or using exercise bands strengthens your bones and your muscles too! Tai Chi is an example of physical activity that improves posture and balance to help decrease the risk for falls and fractures. Exercise can be easy; try 10 minutes at a time, adding the minutes up to reach your goal.

Don’t smoke. Smoking is a strong risk factor for osteoporosis in men. If you do smoke, it will benefit your bones and overall health to stop. Call 1-800-NYQUITS for information about how to quit.

Limit alcohol. Heavy alcohol consumption is another strong risk factor for osteoporosis in men. Before drinking alcohol, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider about possible interactions with your medication or your medical condition. Too much alcohol can be harmful for your bones and your overall health.

Take actions to prevent falls. Most broken bones occur as a result of a fall that can be prevented. Some actions to prevent falls at home include using nightlights, removing or securing scatter rugs, and getting rid of clutter. It is also important to protect your bones by wearing seat belts in all moving vehicles and by using helmets and protective gear when participating in sports.

If you have risk factors for osteoporosis, it does not mean that you have or will get the disease. The only way to diagnose osteoporosis is by having a bone mineral density (BMD) test. It is important to speak to your healthcare provider to find out when the right time is for you to have a BMD test.