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Osteoporosis in Men: Should You Be Concerned?

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer at The Fit Father Project

osteoporosis in men

If you don't think that osteoporosis in men is a problem, you're not alone, but men are indeed at risk of this common chronic health problem.

Osteoporosis in men might not be at the forefront of your concerns, as this chronic disease has long been seen as a women's health issue.

While it's true that women have a higher chance of developing osteoporosis, men are also at risk.

You might be asking yourself the question: should men over 40 consider having their bone density measured?

The answer is yes!

Before you can solve a problem, you have to know what the problem is! Learn about the most common health problems for men over 40 — and what you can do about them.

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How Common is Osteoporosis in Men?

Osteoporosis is a common bone health problem in which your bones become weak and brittle, with a higher chance of breaking.

While osteoporosis is often thought of as a women's disease, men are at risk as well, especially with increasing age.

The National Osteoporosis Association reports that one in four men over 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis, two million U.S. men have osteoporosis, and 12 million more men are at risk of developing it.

Because bone is living tissue, it breaks down and gets replaced.

If bone tissue breaks down at a faster rate than new bone gets created, your bones weaken and osteoporosis can occur.

Living a healthy lifestyle can keep your bones strong and reduce your risk of osteoporosis.

What Are Risk Factors for Osteoporosis in Men?

Osteoporosis can occur in men and women, especially with older age.

Factors that increase your risk of developing weak bones include:

  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Older age
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • A small frame size
  • Being white or Asian
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Low testosterone levels
  • High thyroid levels
  • A low calcium intake
  • Eating disorders
  • Taking certain medications
  • Having specific medical problems

Taking corticosteroid medications long term can interfere with bone rebuilding and increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.

Some medications used to prevent or combat gastric reflux, seizures, transplant rejection, or cancer may also put you at risk of low bone density.

Medical conditions that boost your osteoporosis risk include prior stomach or intestine surgery, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, lupus, kidney or liver disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

In the early stages of bone loss, you might not have any symptoms.

As the disease progresses, however, you might experience back pain, a stooped posture, loss of height over time, and bones that break easily.

Should I Get Bone Density Screenings?

If you have osteoporosis risk factors, especially if you're over age 50, ask your doctor if you're a good candidate for bone density screening.

Even if you're not at risk but you'd like to know how dense or weak your bones are, bone density screening can give you the answers you're searching for.

Seeking treatment for low bone density before osteoporosis develops is the best way to prevent continued bone loss and reduce your risk of bone fractures later in life.

How Do Doctors Diagnose Osteoporosis?

If you're at risk of osteoporosis or would like to get screened for low bone density for peace of mind, talk with your doctor to see if you're a good candidate for a bone density test.

During bone density screening, your doctor uses a special X-ray machine to measure how dense your bones are and your risk of osteoporosis.

All you have to do is lie down on a comfortable table as a bone density scanning machine passes over your body to get an in-depth view of your bones and their strength and density.

The test is fast and painless.

What Are Some Osteoporosis Treatments?

Depending on the severity of osteoporosis, if you have it, your doctor might recommend one or more of the following treatments:

Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Making specific lifestyle changes can help prevent further bone loss.

These changes also lower your risk of breaking bones or developing osteoporosis in the first place.

Examples of healthy habits that optimize bone health and reduce your risk of fractures include not smoking, avoiding excessive alcohol, and wearing comfortable shoes to prevent falls.

Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods (or other foods enriched with calcium and vitamin D).

Get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

Medications

If you have low bone density or osteoporosis, your doctor might prescribe medications to slow the progression of bone loss, help rebuild bone mass, and reduce your risk of breaking bones.

Numerous medications help treat osteoporosis and slow future bone loss.

Your doctor can develop an osteoporosis medication regimen that's right for you.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

If you have low testosterone levels, hormone replacement therapy can slow or eliminate loss of bone mineral density.

Hormone therapy for men is available as subdermal pellets, patches, gels, and injections.

Your doctor can let you know which hormone treatment is right for you based on your preferences, lifestyle, and blood testosterone levels.

They can monitor testosterone in your body periodically, using a simple blood test, to make sure your levels stay within a normal range.

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Ways to Prevent Osteoporosis in Men

There are several things you can do to build bone density and strength, especially in your younger years, to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in men.

Examples include:

1. Complete Weight-Bearing Cardio Exercises

One of the best ways to build bone mass, especially during childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood (your 20s and 30s), is to participate in weight-bearing exercises regularly.

Examples include jogging, walking, jumping jacks, rope jumping, and playing football, soccer, or basketball.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends adults get in at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercises four or more days weekly to promote optional bone health.

Weight-bearing cardiovascular workouts are also beneficial for heart health, lowering your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Learn about burning fat during cardio and the best types of cardio that you can do to lose weight.

2. Lift Weights

In addition to doing weight-bearing cardiovascular exercises regularly, AAOS recommends you complete muscle-strengthening activities (such as weightlifting, using resistance bands, or using your own body weight as resistance) at least twice a week.

Work all major muscle groups, including your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and abdominal muscles.

For best results, check out the Fit Father Project YouTube channel for some great workouts that will help you get and stay lean for life!

Keep weights at home, in case you don't have time to make it to the gym regularly.

Combine strength training with cardiovascular workouts to maximize your results.

Strength training for older guys requires a different approach to exercise and muscle building. This video shows you how you should be working out in your 40s, 50s, and 60s, and how you should be eating and supplementing your diet.

3. Consume Bone-Strengthening Foods

Eat a healthy diet rich in bone-strengthening foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin D, or both. Examples include:

  • Low-fat milk
  • Calcium-fortified plant milk
  • Calcium-fortified breakfast cereal
  • Calcium-fortified juice
  • Greek yogurt
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Canned sardines
  • Salmon
  • Canned light tuna
  • Calcium-rich whey or casein protein shakes

Aim to incorporate three servings of dairy foods or calcium-rich alternatives in your diet daily.

Fill half of each plate of food with leafy greens or other non-starchy vegetables.

Fill the other half of your plate with fish, chicken, or other protein foods plus fiber-rich starches (such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, peas, corn, and dried beans).

4. Limit Certain Foods and Drinks

In addition to consuming calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods, avoid foods that inhibit the absorption of bone-strengthening nutrients.

Doing so helps you maintain strong bones, lowering your risk of bone loss and osteoporosis in men.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the following foods can reduce calcium absorption or increase your risk of bone loss when consumed in excess.

Examples include:

  • Wheat bran
  • Alcohol (more than 2-3 drinks per day)
  • Caffeinated drinks (more than 3 cups daily)
  • Soft drinks

Limit or avoid alcoholic drinks, sodas, and other sugary drinks as much as possible.

Drink up to three cups of coffee or tea daily, but don't overdo it.

Limit wheat bran in favor of other whole grains or starchy vegetables to optimize bone health.

Learn how to improve your diet, no matter WHAT diet it is!

5. Take Dietary Supplements

Even if you eat a healthy diet rich in calcium, vitamin D, and other bone-strengthening vitamins and minerals, you might not be getting enough of the essential nutrients your body needs to maintain strong, dense bones.

Ask your doctor if taking any of the following bone-strengthening dietary supplements is the right choice for you:

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Phosphorous
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin K
  • Boron

Your men's multivitamin supplement might already contain these essential nutrients in recommended amounts.

However, if you have low bone density because of a nutritional deficiency, your doctor might recommend taking extra vitamin or mineral supplements in addition to your multivitamin.

6. Get Plenty of Sleep

Get plenty of sleep to allow your body to heal after workouts, rebuild bone, and keep energy levels high enough to complete regular weight-bearing exercises.

Getting enough sleep also helps you maintain a healthy weight by keeping hunger hormones in check.

Aim to get at least 7 hours of high-quality sleep each night.

Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool, make sure your room is clutter-free, quiet, and dark, and sleep next to a white noise machine or fan as needed to block out sounds that keep you awake.

Ask your doctor about treatment for sleep apnea if you suspect you have it because of snoring, waking up gasping for air, or waking up tired.

Avoid late-night workouts, going to bed hungry, going to bed very full, screen time late at night, and drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol right before bed.

Learn why the Circadian Rhythm and production of sleep hormones are vital parts of getting better sleep.

7. Have Your Hormones Checked Regularly

Because low testosterone and thyroid problems are contributors to bone loss and osteoporosis in men, ask your doctor for a blood test to evaluate your hormone levels — especially after age 40.

Having the right balance of hormones in your body, and beginning hormone replacement therapy if necessary, not only improves bone health but can help you look and feel years younger.

It optimizes muscle mass, energy, and sexual function, while minimizing body fat gains and hair loss.

8. Ask About Bone Density Screenings

Getting a bone density screening if you're over age 40 or 50, especially if you have risk factors for osteoporosis in men, is the only way to truly know if you have weak bones requiring medical intervention.

Ask your doctor if you're a good candidate for bone density screening because of your specific osteoporosis risk factors.

They can let you know how often to undergo bone density tests, to ensure optimal health and osteoporosis prevention.

9. Don't Smoke

You probably already know that smoking is bad for you, as it increases your risk of lung cancer and other lung health problems.

But believe it or not, tobacco use can also contribute to weak bones and a higher risk of osteoporosis in men, while the exact role it plays in low bone density development isn't entirely clear.

If you struggle to quit smoking on your own, ask your doctor about treatment for tobacco dependence.

Examples of smoking cessation solutions include medications, patches, sprays, gums, lozenges, counseling, and support groups.

Don't give up after failed attempts at smoking cessation, as it often takes more than one try to quit for good!

10. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is an excellent way to stay active enough to complete weight-bearing exercises, which helps keep your bones strong.

If weight loss is your goal, increase cardiovascular exercise, drink more water, increase your intake of non-starchy vegetables and protein, reduce your calorie intake, and get plenty of sleep.

If you struggle to get excess weight off on your own, the Fit Father Project program is for you!

The Fit Father Project team offers motivational support, custom healthy eating plans, fat-burning and muscle-building workouts, recipes, weekly newsletters, and much more.

Try the FF30X weight loss program, or sign up for a free meal plan and workout to begin your weight loss journey.

Learn about the immune system in depth and what you can do to increase your immune strength!

Start Preventing Osteoporosis Early

Being over age 40 or 50 doesn't mean osteoporosis in men is inevitable.

Build and maintain strong bones at a young age with a healthy diet, dietary supplements, quality sleep, and regular weight-bearing and resistance training exercises to reduce your risk of broken bones later in life.

If you experience low bone mineral density, chat with your doctor about treatment to lower your risk of breaking bones associated with osteoporosis in men.

Prioritize healthy bones to optimize your overall health and wellness!

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Erin Coleman B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer at The Fit Father Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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