Statistics by The National Osteoporosis Foundation show that around 54 million Americans aged 50 or over are affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass.
Osteoporosis is a common ailment of aging, that can improved with diet modifications, lifestyle changes and exercise to live a fuller and happier life.
What is Osteoporosis anyway
Per the Mayo Clinic, osteoporosis is a painful disease caused by the bones becoming brittle. As men age, bone tissue is constantly being replaced. After age 50 the process slows down, so bones become older, weaker and thinner.
This condition leads to more bone fractures and that noticeable curvature of the spine.
The research shows that around 8.2 million women and 2 million men have osteoporosis. Also, around 27.3 million women and 16.1 million men have low bone mass.
If you are in your 40s, it is definitely time to make important lifestyle changes that can reduce your chance of having osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone mass).
Making a move now will significantly reduce your chance of bone fractures. This condition can lower your lifespan, cause significant chronic pain, and reduce your quality of life as you move into your senior years.
Why Do More Women than Men Have Osteoporosis and Low Bone Mass?
More women than men suffer from osteoporosis and low bone mass for two main reasons: women have smaller, thinner bones than men; and estrogen (a hormone that protects bones) levels drop dramatically after a woman reaches menopause.
Men generally do not lose the same amount of bone as women in their 50s. By the age of 65 or 70, men do begin to lose bone mass at the same rate and the absorption of calcium decreases in both sexes.
What are Risk Factors for Osteoporosis in Men?
There are two types of osteoporosis: primary and secondary. Primary osteoporosis is generally due to ageing or unknown reasons, and secondary osteoporosis is related by specific lifestyle behaviors, illnesses, or medications.
In men, the most common causes of secondary osteoporosis include:
- glucocorticoid medications,
- low testosterone levels,
- drinking heavily, i
- gastrointestinal disease,
- and hypercalciuria (having high levels of calcium in urine).
1. How Can Medication Affect Bone Levels in Men?
Glucocorticoid medications are commonly used for conditions such as:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- and various other inflammatory conditions.
They are also sometimes used in cancer therapy to reduce the side-effects caused by chemotherapy.
The list of this type of medication is vast and includes hydrocortisone, budesonide, and betamethasone.
These medications have been shown to directly affect bone mass, calcium absorption in the intestines and can lower testosterone levels in men.
Their effect can be minimized by taking minimal doses (as prescribe by your doctor), and also consid other treatments, taking enough Vitamins C and D, etc.
If you have low bone mass or osteoporosis, it is key to discuss other medications you are taking with your doctor. This way any necessary adjustments can be made.
2. Making Important Lifestyle Changes
The first step towards approaching bone loss in a natural way, involves eliminating habits that are causing the problem – including smoking and alcohol abuse.
Studies show that men exceed women in drinking and in high-volume drinking. Alcohol affects bone health by interfering with the balance of calcium and with Vitamin D production.
Alcohol consumption can also result in reduced testosterone production and higher levels of stress hormone, cortisol.
High production of this stress hormone is also related to decreased bone formation and increased bone breakdown.
Many studies have shown a direct relationship between smoking and decreased bone density, and an increased risk of fracture. Thus, smoking is a validated risk factor included in FRAX (the World Health Organization’s Fracture Risk Assessment Tool).
This online tool can calculate your risk of an osteoporotic fracture over the next 10 years.
3. Men Should Aim to Consume a Mediterranean Diet
Men are less likely than women to consume their five-a-day fruit and vegetable requirement and this could affect their bone health.
If you are into fast food and ready made products, consider making the switch. A healthy Mediterranean diet can help you stave off bone loss.
This diet includes fish, dairy, fruits and vegetables, which contain important nutrients and vitamins such as calcium; Vitamin C, D and K; magnesium; potassium, etc.
Your diet should include calcium-rich foods. This includes dairy foods, vegetables, fish (think sardines and canned salmon, which contain edible bones). Include fortified foods; and supplements (which you can discuss with your doctor if your nutritional intake is inadequate).
Beans contain a host of important nutrients. They also contain phytates, which interfere with your body’s ability to absorb calcium. Reduce phytate levels by pre-soaking beans prior to cooking for a minimum of 12 hours.
4. Exercise is Key to Prevent Bone Loss
Studies show that weight-bearing exercise for increased bone strength is one of the most effective. As noted by Dr. Mercola, even the walking lunge can build bone density in your hips. You can gain benefit even if you don’t use any additional weights.
Exercises that promote better balance (including yoga, Tai Chi, and vibrating plates), can also help you reduce your risk of falling and of breaking a bone.
High-impact exercises like sprinting are also useful. Hopping and weightlifting also increase bone density, as does high impact aerobics, climbing stairs, hiking, playing tennis, etc.
As you age, you can continue to stay fit through lower impact exercises. The key is to keep moving and to embrace activities such as yoga, which promote greater strength and flexibility.
5. Osteogenic Loading
A study published in the journal JBMR found that impact below a specific threshold (>4.2g) are positively related to bone growth in the hips.
However, the researchers found that exercise that causes lesser impact has little benefit when it comes to bone growth. To achieve the required impact, you need to carry out exercises that load the body with a force of over 4.2 multiples of body weight.
Men and women perform these exercises through a method called OsteoStrong, which delivers a higher degree of force without causing any injury or strain. You can perform these exercises on a small set of machines.
They are very similar in appearance and function to other gym machines but instead of lifting weight. The key is to push forward or pull upward (using different muscle groups) with all the force you can.
Men and women can perform these exercises, regardless of age. They are completely safe, since no weights are involved. Studies carried out on this method have shown an improvement of 14.7% in bone density after eight months.
We have mentioned just a few ways to keep osteoporosis and low bone mass at bay. Consume a healthy diet and stay active, combining weights and high intensity exercises.
If you know you have low bone mass, talk to your doctor about an osteogenic loading exercise regime like OsteoStrong. This has shown promising results in terms of stimulating bone growth.
Jane Sandwood is a freelance writer and editor. Her main interest is exploring how people can improve their health and wellbeing. Jane enjoys books, going to the gym, or just spending quality time with her family.
Ken Weiss is a health blogger who is passionate about natural and holistic cures for men’s health issues. He is the founder of menshealthcures.com