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Most people believe that osteoporosis is a condition that predominantly affects postmenopausal women. However, new findings show that many older men are also at risk for osteoporotic fractures, which may carry a greater risk of mortality.
Osteoporosis in Men
Osteoporosis is a condition wherein there is progressive bone loss, in terms of mass and density, which puts one at risk for fractures. The bone is a living matter that undergoes constant formation through deposition, and loss, through the process of resorption. These processes occur as people grow and develop, and continue onto adulthood. Bones weaken when the balance between bone formation and bone resorption is lost, such that bone density decreases, and bones become porous. This increases their risk of being broken or fractured when they are subjected even to mild stress. The bones of the spine (vertebrae), the hips and the wrist are commonly affected.
More often, however, a fracture is the first sign that one experiences before he is aware that he has osteoporosis. More than 1.5 million fractures occur annually in the US, which are related to osteoporosis. Most of these involve the spine, and the rest involve the hip, wrist, and other parts of the body.
Osteoporosis can affect anyone at any age, but elderly women are who are white or of Asian descent are more likely to be involved. However, studies show that more than two million men in the US have osteoporosis and about twelve million more are at risk of developing it. Current worldwide data shows that about one-third of all hip fractures occur in men and that more than one-third of these men die within one year after the fracture.
Weakness or thinning of the bones is often not suspected or diagnosed in men because they have a bigger bone mass than women and bone loss often occurs more slowly. However, new data from the International Osteoporosis Foundation shows that men have higher mortality rates compared to women when it comes to hip fractures. One factor that causes more serious consequences for men is that they are usually older when the fractures occur.
The number of men who have weak bones is predicted to rise dramatically as the number of aging men is increasing.
Causes and Risk Factors
Bone loss usually increases after the age of thirty, and the process of bone formation is not able to keep up with it, resulting in thinning and weakening of bones. In women, the process is hastened after menopause, around the age of fifty, but they are more likely to receive preventive treatments because of the recognized risk.
Aside from advanced age, other factors that increase men’s risk of developing osteoporosis include:
- Lack of physical activity
- Low testosterone levels
- Low body weight (BMI < 20)
- Chronic diseases, such as liver, thyroid, or kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Use of certain medications, such as glucocorticosteroids, antacids, anticonvulsants, etc.
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
- Chronic smoking
- Having a previous history of fractures after age 50
- Use of androgen deprivation therapy (for prostate cancer)