Did you know that 25% of men over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporotic fracture?
Or that nearly 30% of all hip fractures occur in men? What’s more, their long-term outcome for hip fracture as a whole is worse than that of women.
Because osteoporosis is often described as a woman’s concern, many men may not realize they’re at risk for harmful bone loss too. As part of National Osteoporosis Awareness & Prevention Month, it’s time to share the news with your male family and friends so that they can take action too.
Risk factors for osteoporosis and fragility fractures in men
The vast majority of factors that weaken bone in women are also risk factors for men:
- Inadequate vitamin D
- Low nutrient intake
- Being underweight
- Physical inactivity and low muscle mass
- Deficiency of sex hormones which results in accelerated bone loss in men just as in women. For men this is mostly an issue of testosterone, but men also have some estrogen and this “female” hormone helps protect their skeleton.
- The use of various bone-depleting medications including steroids (glucocorticoids), anti-depressants, proton pump inhibitors and anticonvulsants. Steroid medications directly cause osteoporosis when used over time, even in 5 mg doses
- Various medical conditions such as hyperparathyroidism or thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple myeloma, etc.
- Lifestyle factors particularly smoking and excessive alcohol intake. Consumption of 10 or more alcoholic drinks per week is associated with a moderately increased risk of fracture.
- Having a previous fracture. Older men with a prevalent vertebral fracture have three times increased risk of sustaining new fractures compared to men without vertebral fracture. (Karlsson et al. 2016)
- A family history of hip fractures. A Swedish study found that men who had grandfathers who had suffered a hip fracture had both lower bone density and smaller bones than those who did not have a male relative who had fractured. (Rudäng et al. 2010)
A natural approach to bone health works best for men too
Very few studies have tested the common bone drugs in men. A 2015 reports an overall lack of evidence concerning the effectiveness of bisphosphonates for reducing hip and other non-vertebral fractures in osteoporotic men.
I suggest for men and women that bone drugs be used as a “last resort” only when all hidden medical causes of bone loss have been explored and all known lifestyle and nutrient interventions have been tried and proven unsuccessful. You can read more about my natural approach to bone-building here.
Karlsson, M. K., M. Kherad, R. Hasserius, J. A. Nilsson, I. Redlund-Johnell, C. Ohlsson, M. Lorentzon, D. Mellström, and B. E. Rosengren. 2016. Characteristics of prevalent vertebral fractures predict new fractures in elderly men. Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery Am. 98(5):379–385.
Rudäng, R., C. Ohlsson, A. Odén, H. Johansson, D. Mellström, and M. Lorentzon. 2010. Hip fracture prevalence in grandfathers is associated with reduced cortical cross-sectional bone area in their young adult grandsons. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 95(3):1105–1114.
Willson, T., S. D. Nelson, J. Newbold, R. E. Nelson, and J. LaFleur. 2015. The clinical epidemiology of male osteoporosis: A review of the recent literature. Clinical Epidemiology 7:65–76.
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and speaker. Get my free weekly newsletter here.