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Osteoporosis Is Not Just a Woman’s Disease

Posted 9/7/2016 by UHBlog

About 20 to 25 percent of hip fractures occur in men. Find out if you're at risk.

Osteoporosis Is Not Just a Woman’s Disease

Osteoporosis is a disease that makes bones fragile and more prone to breaking during a fall. Although many people think osteoporosis is exclusively a women’s disease, it also affects men.

“For decades we've recognized the relationship between menopause and the development of osteoporosis in women,” says internal medicine specialist Mark Roth, MD. “That’s because a reduction of the female sex hormone estrogen after menopause has been linked to low bone density. More recently we’ve discovered that the lowering of testosterone – the male sex hormone – as men age also is a cause of osteoporosis. The relationship between the reduction in the sex hormones and osteoporosis is more apparent in women because of the dramatic changes they experience during menopause.”

On average, Dr. Roth says, men are likely to get osteoporosis about 10 years later than women, typically after the age of 70.

However, the implications of osteoporosis are generally the same for both genders. The impact is generally minimal until a fall or other bone trauma occurs.

“The most dangerous consequence of osteoporosis is a hip fracture,” he says. “Hip fractures can have very serious health implications as they can result in life-threatening complications. That’s because unlike a broken arm or broken vertebrae, surgery is typically the only remedy for a broken hip, and any type of surgery is riskier for the elderly than it is for younger people.”

While hip fractures are the most critical fractures, broken vertebrae of the back are the most common injuries related to osteoporosis.

“Those, however, tend to be less serious, though they can cause significant pain,” Dr. Roth says. “Some people have fractured vertebrae, however, without pain.”

Osteoporosis is not completely preventable, but Dr. Roth says there are some precautions that men and women can take to reduce their risks of getting it. They include:

  • Stop smoking
  • Don’t abuse alcohol
  • Stay active – Walking and other weight-bearing exercises helps to build bone strength
  • Treat low testosterone – You can talk to your doctor about getting treatments to boost your testosterone level
  • Take medications – If you have diabetes or a thyroid problem, your doctor may prescribe medication to increase your bone strength
  • Increase vitamin D dosage – Vitamin D is considered essential for strong bones. People in Northeast Ohio are particularly prone to a Vitamin D insufficiency because of the relative lack of sunlight. Vitamin D helps your bones to absorb calcium. However Dr. Roth says, while calcium supplements are frequently suggested to combat osteoporosis, the correlation between the two hasn’t been proven.

Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease. That’s because most people don’t know they have it until they break a bone. A bone density X-ray, however, can diagnose the disease before a break occurs.

“A bone density X-ray is a special imaging device that looks at certain parts of the bones in the spine or hip and determines their density,” Dr. Roth says. “In general, bone density X-rays are recommended for men only if there is a history of bone fractures or if there are risk factors for osteoporosis, such as smoking or diabetes.”

To avoid hurting yourself, people with osteoporosis should take precautions to avoid falls, Dr. Roth says. He recommends:

  • Removing obstacles from the floor, such as throw rugs and electrical cords, that present tripping hazards
  • Keeping your home well-lit and using a nightlight at night to illuminate trips to the bathroom
  • Installing grab bars, particularly in and near shower and bath areas

Mark Roth, MD is an internal medicine specialist at University Hospitals Willoughby Primary Care. You can request an appointment with Dr. Roth or any doctor online.

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