How Osteoporosis Affects Men

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Although the majority of osteoporosis cases are in women, there is still a significant risk of osteoporosis in men. About a quarter of the total hip fractures related to osteoporosis occur in men. This is hugely meaningful as there is a much bigger overall mortality rate in the first 12 months after a hip fracture in men than women. For a variety of reasons men do not appear as able to withstand the physical and psychological knock that a fall and fractured hip causes, suggesting that osteoporosis is a general threat to wellbeing in life as well as to the health of bones and joints.

What's the risk?

It is estimated that the risk of experiencing a fracture related to osteoporosis in men over the age of 50 is up to 27%, which is considerably higher than the lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer, which is currently around 11%. When we take into account the high rate of death in men within 12 months of suffering an osteoporosis related hip fracture, this is a significant public health issue. There are of course social and economic factors to consider too. In Sweden, fractures associated with osteoporosis in men account for more hospital bed days than those due to prostate cancer which presents a significant bill to the health service.

Hormonal deficiency is a big factor for men developing osteoporosis. As men age the amount of testosterone in their bodies naturally reduces. Much like women’s loss of oestrogen during the menopause, this loss of testosterone is a key reason for osteoporosis developing in men. There have been some recent studies looking at the effect on men’s bone density with a treatment of hormone replacement therapy. These studies have seen some positive results although bone density did not return to normal adult male levels.

Other factors

The other major contributor to osteoporosis onset in men is their lifestyle. Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking are major factors. However the simple fact is that we as a society, and men in particular, do not do enough exercise. For these reasons the lifestyle changes that GOF recommend can have a significant effect for men. If you jog or do strenuous walking regularly you will develop bone density at the site of skeletal stress. In this case the hips will be significantly strengthened.

This will increase the density of the bones in the hips and will reduce the risk of suffering a fracture in the case of a fall. This in turn would reduce a significant cause of early death in elderly men and even decrease the amount of hospital hours taken up with osteoporosis treatment. Which would potentially save health services a significant amount, by not having to treat a preventable condition.

How to help yourself

So to those younger men and women reading this, the advice is the same: drink less alcohol, stop smoking, do regular exercise, and make sure you are consuming enough calcium and vitamin D. The simple lifestyle changes we advocate would have a significant social benefit as well as the more obvious individual health benefits.

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