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Osteoporosis in Men: More Common Than You May Think
Throughout your lifetime, your bones are constantly changing. Old bone is being removed and new bone is being added. When you are young, your bones grow stronger because you are building bone. Sometime around your late twenties to early thirties, this changes, and you may begin to lose bone faster than it is added.
Osteoporosis occurs when your bones become weak and brittle and can break easily. The hip, spine, and wrist are the most common locations of osteoporosis-related fractures. Fractures are a major threat to people’s mobility and independence—and they can be deadly. There is the possibility of death due to complications in the first year after a hip fracture. Everyone is susceptible to osteoporosis, but the following factors increase the risk in men of developing it:
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Low body mass index—excessive thinness
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Cigarette smoking
Osteoporosis in Men
Since women are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis, the media and the healthcare industry usually focus on osteoporosis in women. Because of this emphasis on women, men may not even be aware that they are also at risk. It is true that men do not experience rapid bone loss in their 50s like women do. But by age 65 or 70, men and women are losing bone mass at the same rate. As men get older, their risk of developing osteoporosis increases substantially.
Many cases of osteoporosis in men are due to age-related bone loss, but some of the cases are due to some secondary cause. Some secondary causes are:
- Glucocorticoid medication—used to treat diseases such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis
- Hyperthyroidism or hyperparathyroidism
- Hypogonadism—low levels of testosterone, which can occur naturally or be caused by medications, cancer treatments, or many other factors
- Cancer therapies—such as androgen blocks for prostate cancer
- Gastrointestinal disease—which may impair the absorption of bone-building nutrients
- Too much calcium lost in the urine—hypercalciuria
- Immobilization (prolonged bedrest) or inactive lifestyle
How You Can Protect Your Bones
To help preserve your bone health:
- Talk to your doctor about how to successfully quit smoking.
- Moderate alcohol intake. This means no more than 2 drinks per day for men.
- Lift weights—Resistance training exercises have been shown to increase bone mass and strength.
- Engage in weight-bearing exercises—Examples include walking, jogging, racquet sports, or stair climbing.
- Get sufficient calcium and vitamin D—The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium and 800-1,000 IU of vitamin D daily in men over 50 years old. Talk to your doctor about your specific needs.
- Discuss medications that might affect bone loss with your doctor.
One of the most important things you can do to protect your bones is to detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs. Since most physicians do not commonly screen men for osteoporosis, you should alert your doctor if you are at increased risk for developing this condition. Also, discuss the option of screening with your doctor if you have experienced loss in height, change in posture, fracture, or sudden back pain.
To diagnose osteoporosis, your doctor will get your complete medical history. They will also get a bone density test, which can detect low bone density, predict your risk for fractures, diagnose osteoporosis, and monitor the effectiveness of treatments.
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, it is important that it be treated. Your doctor may prescribe a prescription medication that has been approved to treat osteoporosis in men. You will probably also be placed on a nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle regimen for preventing future bone loss.
National Osteoporosis Foundation
Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Kids and their bones: a guide for parents. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health%5FInfo/Bone/Bone%5FHealth/Juvenile/default.asp. Updated March 2015. Accessed March 17, 2017.
Osteoporosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113815/Osteoporosis. Updated February 20, 2017. Accessed March 17, 2017.
Osteoporosis causes and risk factors. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902594/Osteoporosis-causes-and-risk-factors. Updated February 20, 2017. Accessed March 17, 2017.
Osteoporosis in men. Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center website. Available at: https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health%5FInfo/Bone/Osteoporosis/men.asp. Updated June 2015. Accessed March 17, 2017.
Sharma S, Fraser M, Lovell F, Reece A, McLellan ARJ. Characteristics of males over 50 years who present with a fracture: epidemiology and underlying risk factors. Bone Joint Surg Br. 2008;90(1):72-77.
The man's guide to osteoporosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation website. Available at: https://cdn.nof.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Mans-Guide-to-Osteoporosis-1.pdf. Accessed March 17, 2017.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD FAAP
- Review Date: 03/2017
- Update Date: 03/17/2017