Prevention of Osteoporosis in Men
Written By Jun Wang, MS.
Osteoporosis is a health condition where your bones are weak and brittle. Health risks of osteoporosis may include an increase of fractures of the hip, wrist and spine. Generally speaking, osteoporosis is bone loss and, every day since the day we are born, our bones are becoming weaker and weaker. Before our thirties, the breakdown of “old” bones are slower than the production of “new” bones, so the skeleton grows in both size and strength. After that point, bone density slowly declines in both men and women. Women after menopause are at the highest risk, while millions of American men are also suffering from osteoporosis. The primary cause of osteoporosis in men is age-related and becomes an issue usually after the age of 65.
Seventy-five percent of seniors are at risk for a fracture related to bone loss. Twenty-five percent of women over the age of 65 have full blown osteoporosis and another 52% have osteopenia. For men, six percent have full blown osteoporosis and 44% of older men have osteopenia; a smaller level of bone loss than osteoporosis but it still increases the risk of fracture. For men, the rate of bone loss at the age of 65 is 1-2% per year, so by the age of 75 men, men have lost 10–20% of their bone. Medication, obesity, and other lifestyle habits can accelerate this loss. Additionally, calcium absorption decreases on average by 0.21% per year after the age of 40.
The secondary causes of osteoporosis is from medication use, immobilization, unhealthy lifestyle habits, hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment for prostate cancer, obesity with metabolic syndrome, and other health problems. Most men with osteoporosis have at least one or more than one secondary cause, making this health issue a very common yet serious occurrence.
Secondary Causes of Osteoporosis
The use of medication is one of the most popular contributing factors in the development of osteoporosis. Glucocortioid medications, commonly used to treat asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and severe inflammation, have strong effects on bone triggering bone loss. Prednisone and other drugs in this family when used long term cause the loss of calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and potassium in the urine contributing to bone fragility. Other medications including, but not limited to diuretics and laxatives also can have adverse effects on bone health. Consult your doctor about your osteoporosis concerns, especially if you are a man over 70 years old. Be sure you are taking the correct dosage of medications, calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Low levels of the male sexual hormone, testosterone, is associated with osteoporosis. Testosterone is needed for bone thickness and for absorption of calcium into bone and is required for men to regulate bone metabolism and prevent bone loss. Testosterone deficiency is not always age-related and can be naturally low in some men, a condition if bad enough can be referred to as hypogonadism. Testosterone can also be affected by certain medications.
Prevention of Osteoporosis
Lack of exercise and being overweight and obese greatly impact bone health because more weight is being exerted on the hips, waists and knees, which accelerates the decline of bone density. Additionally, the excess fat cells trigger the release of inflammatory substances that cause bone loss. However, weight-bearing exercises like walking and jogging can speed up bone metabolism and effectively prevent bone loss. Exercising 30 minutes a day is thought to be an optimal level to maintain bone health. Losing weight by only cutting back on eating calories is not the best way to improve bone health, because it will decrease intake of calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients, in turn, accelerating bone loss. Combining proper weight loss with weight-bearing exercises is the best way to keep bones strong.
People with gastrointestinal disorders that cause absorption problems can't absorb and metabolize nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, strontium and vitamin K properly. All of them are essential for bone growth and to maintain bone density.
Vital Nutrients for Osteoporosis
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and 99% of it is found in your bones and teeth. As previously mentioned, most people will reach their peak bone mass before the age of 30. After that, bone mass starts to slowly decline. Therefore, it is always important to reserve enough calcium in the bones as early as possible to maximize bone mass, slow the loss of bone disintegration and prevent fracture and osteoporosis afterwards. Think about saving your bone health in the same way you save money in the bank – the earlier you start to save, the more money/bones you will have in the future. The recommended daily allowance of calcium for men is 1,000 mg/day.*
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, mainly obtained from sun exposure and found in foods such as mushrooms, tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and fortified foods. It has recently been recognized as one of the most important micronutrients in the body, which involves calcium homeostasis, bone formation and growth. Deficiency in vitamin D will cause calcium mal-absorption and lead to osteoporosis. i The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D is 600 IU/day. A great deal of research indicates many people will benefit from higher dosages of Vitamin D and the best way to judge your intake is by having a blood test to measure your vitamin D level. The maximum amount of vitamin D intake is thought to be 4,000 IU/day.*
Strontium is a trace element found in seafood, whole milk, wheat bran, meat, poultry, and root vegetables.iv Its biochemical function is similar to calcium and appears to play a role in the formation of new bone while slowing the breakdown of old bone, and thus may influence bone density. However, taking excessive amounts may compete with calcium in the body and disorganize vitamin D’s metabolism. Taking the recommended dose of strontium away from food and other supplements can help to maximize its benefit.*
Probiotics can reduce international inflammation and promote food digestion in the GI tract. Many people with gastrointestinal problems can't absorb vital nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D properly, which will lead to deficiency of these nutrients and cause osteoporosis. Supplementing with probiotics may help to reverse vitamin deficiencies.*
Although men are still less likely to have osteoporosis than women, it is important for men to prevent it by minimizing unnecessary medication use, maintain a healthy lifestyle and supplementing with premium nutritional supplements.
*Consult a nutritionist or your primary doctor before starting a vitamin or supplement regimen.
1. Center for Disease Control and Preventions Division of Health and Nutrition Examination, 2005-2010 Survey
2. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium
4. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008 Aug; 4(4): 827–836.Published online 2008 Aug.The use of calcium and vitamin D in the management of osteoporosis John A Sunyecz
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