Osteoporosis: Not just a women's disease

Wellness RN

Jenn CorbettMarch 29, 2012 

Osteoporosis is a disease most commonly associated with women but over recent decades the medical community is paying closer attention to its effect on men. Osteoporosis is defined as the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time.

Osteoporosis, often called the "silent disease" progresses without symptoms until a fracture occurs. It develops less often in men than in women because men have larger skeletons, their bone loss starts later and progresses more slowly and they have no period of rapid hormonal change and bone loss.

In the past few years the problem of osteoporosis in men has been recognized as an important public health issue, particularly in light of estimates that the number of men above the age of 70 will continue to increase as life expectancy continues to rise.

To understand osteoporosis one must first understand how the bone works. Bone is constantly changing, old bone is removed and replaced by new bone. During childhood, more bone is produced than removed, so the skeleton grows in both size and strength. For most people, bone mass peaks during the third decade of life. By this age, men typically have accumulated more bone mass than women.

After this point, the amount of bone in the skeleton typically begins to decline slowly as removal of old bone exceeds formation of new bone men in their 50s do not experience the rapid loss of bone mass that women do in the years following menopause. By age 65 or 70, however, men and women are losing bone mass at the same rate, and the absorption of calcium, an essential nutrient for bone health throughout life, decreases in both sexes. Excessive bone loss causes bone to become fragile and more likely to fracture.

As with any other disease, prevention is key. Whether you are male or female there are things you can do to prevent this disease.

Supplementation: Calcium and Vitamin D. Calcium is essential for building and maintaining healthy bone. Vitamin D is also needed because it helps your body absorb calcium. Always check with your doctor before beginning any supplementation.

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Avoid drinking excess alcohol.

Don't smoke.

Get regular exercise.

Research shows that one in five American women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. With life expectancies of men increasing well over 70 their numbers will continue to increase as well. With these statistics I recommend everyone begin to discuss this disease and your risk for the disease with your doctor.

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