Early bone loss (or osteopenia) can lead to osteoporosis. While women are four times more likely to experience bone loss, men can get it too. In fact, up to two million men in the United States are afflicted with bone loss which thins the bones - making them porous, brittle and prone to fracture.
What Causes Bone Loss in Men?
Deficient testosterone levels are a common cause for bone loss in men. While doctors may suggest testosterone replacement to build bone mass, it is not yet known whether effects are directly attributed to testosterone or whether they are the result of the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. More research is needed in this area.
Low levels of calcium and vitamin D also contribute to bone loss in men. Over the course of a lifetime, bones regenerate. In order to thrive however, new bone cells need adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
Lack of exercise can also be a factor in male bone loss. According to the Surgeon General, merely 35 percent of men from 25 to 64 years of age engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate daily exercise. The truth is, when bones experience stress from exercise, they grow. Simply put, bones are similar to muscles – if not used, they lose mass.
Certain anti-inflammatory medications can lead to bone loss in men like cortisone, hydrocortisone and prednisone. These corticosteroids lower immunity within the body and contribute to bone loss. In fact, one study showed that a daily dosage of 7.5 mg of prednisone completely stopped new bone growth.
Smoking contributes to bone loss. According to an analysis of ten studies conducted in 2004, smokers have a 55% higher risk of hip fracture than nonsmokers, in addition to lower bone mineral density.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Bone Loss?
Here are a few suggestions to preventing bone loss:
Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D. Good nutritional sources of calcium are dairy products, fortified cereals, sardines, salmon and tofu. Sunshine is the best natural source of vitamin D, but milk, orange juice and cereals are also fortified with this important, bone-building vitamin.
Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise. Activities to improve balance like yoga and tai chi are helpful, as they help build stability in the body. The Surgeon General suggests that weight-bearing and impact sports are best for preserving bone mass. Walking and cross-country skiing are considered “low impact” activities, while jogging or running are labeled as “high impact” activities. A two-year longitudinal study from Australia found that walking for exercise helped prevent bone loss in men.
The beta blocker effect - the same study found that men who take beta-blocker medications were also less susceptible to bone loss. Beta blockers are prescribed for conditions like glaucoma, hypertension and migraines. They work by thwarting the effects of the hormone epinephrine (or adrenaline), causing the heart to beat slower and with less force. Beta blockers also help to enhance blood flow and lower blood pressure.
Talk with your doctor about other medications you are taking and your testosterone levels and the effects they may have on bone loss.
Don’t smoke. Bottom line, the more cigarettes smoked and the longer the habit continues, the greater the chances for fracture in old age.
Bone loss is important – it can put an end to a happy and active lifestyle. Just a few changes like those above can ensure strong and healthy bones deep into the golden years.