Osteoporosis in men: Top 5 tips for healthy bones

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Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 8:00 pm

Think you're not at risk for osteoporosis because you're a male? Think again. Men make up 20 percent of all Americans suffering from the condition, according to medpagetoday.com.

It's a common misconception that only women suffer from bone loss when, in reality, men experience it, too. Approximately 2 million American men have osteoporosis and twelve million men are at risk, according to WebMD. Part of the reason more women are at risk than men is because women tend to live longer and therefore have greater time to develop the disease. Unbeknownst to some, men are at risk and by waiting longer to identify the condition, its effects can be even more damaging.

The statistics speak volumes, but there are steps you can take to decrease your risk of osteoporosis. By making a few modest lifestyle changes, you can lower your chances of bone loss dramatically.

Tip 1: Get enough vitamin D and calcium

A common cause of male osteoporosis is calcium and vitamin D deficiency. For bones to grow successfully over the course of a man's lifetime, they need calcium and vitamin D to replace the old bone cells that have died away. By consuming foods or supplements rich in calcium and vitamin D, you can ensure you're getting the nutrients your bones need to stay strong. Fish and eggs have high amounts of vitamin D, and foods like low-fat milk, yogurt, cheeses, nuts and seeds are all rich in calcium.

Tip 2: Don't smoke

More than 20 years ago it was discovered that smoking increases risk of osteoporosis due to the direct relationship between nicotine and bone loss, according to WebMD. In fact, smokers have a 55 percent higher chance of having a hip fracture than nonsmokers. By simply avoiding cigarettes and secondhand smoke, you're minimizing your risk of diminishing bone mass.

Tip 3: Lift weights

Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle are also very important in the prevention of bone loss. The more weight your bones have to support, the more stress they will have. Good news for men who like weight-lifting is that weight-bearing and resistance exercise has been found to benefit bones and lower risk of osteoporosis. WebMD lists activities like using free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or water exercise as a few examples of exercises that increase bone density.

Tip 4: Cut down on the alcohol consumption

Studies show a direct correlation between the over consumption of alcohol and bone fractures. Consumption of two to three ounces of alcohol every day increases a person's risk of osteoporosis because it interferes with the crucial absorption of calcium and vitamin D. Alcohol isn't bad in small amounts, so by merely cutting back you can lower your risk of bone loss.

Tip 5: Keep your testosterone levels up

The most common cause of osteoporosis in men is lack of testosterone. For bone health, some testosterone is converted into estrogen which is used to preserve bone density. If your body isn't producing enough testosterone to convert into estrogen, there are natural ways you can increase it. Exercise helps boost testosterone levels in men. Also, vitamin D is a nutrient that helps promote the production of testosterone. Getting enough sleep at night and having a full, balanced diet are two other ways to ensure testosterone production. By following other healthy living steps, you are lowering your risk of osteoporosis in more ways than one.

Diagnosing male osteoporosis

To diagnose osteoporosis in men, it is recommended that any man age 70 or older should undergo a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan. It is advised that men ages 50 to 69 who have some of the risk factors mentioned above be scanned as well.

There are other osteoporosis risk screenings that can help identify possible bone loss. These screenings use ultrasound to measure the bone mineral density of the heel - which is very similar to the bone of the hip - and detect any risk of bone loss. The screenings do not diagnose the condition, but they do identify bone loss risk and future bone fracture risk before it becomes a serious condition. The earlier bone loss and risk are detected, the better chances you have of preventive treatment and healing.

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