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Osteoporosis: Not Just a Women's Disease

Now is the time for men to learn everything they can to recognize risk factors for osteoporosis and to start taking steps to protect bone health. A good place to start is with a list of the main causes of male osteoporosis:

Low Calcium and Vitamin D
Bones continually grow over your lifetime, in a natural process called remodeling, with old bone cells sloughing off and new bone cells growing in to replace them. But to make new bone, your body needs plenty of calcium and vitamin D.

Hanging Out, Rather Than Working
Out Your bones continually monitor the mechanical stress you put on them. Bone mass is a use-it-or-lose-it kind of thing, just like muscle. When muscle pulls on bone, the bone responds by growing. But if you're not exercising, both bone and muscle weaken. A modest 30 minutes of moderate activity, like brisk walking, on most days of the week is an effective way to regain bone and muscle strength.

Medical Conditions
Living with a chronic condition – especially if you've been taking medications for years – can lead to low bone mass. Having a genetic condition like cystic fibrosis, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and digestive and blood disorders, means it's even more crucial to maximize your diet and exercise to maintain your bone health.

Smokers have a higher risk of fracture – a 55% higher risk of hip fracture than nonsmokers, as well as lower bone mineral density. And nicotine has a direct toxic effect on bone cells.

Bone Up on Male Osteoporosis
So what can you do to help your bones -- even if you've already been diagnosed with osteoporosis? Here are two lifestyle tips:Exercise. Weight-bearing exercise and impact sports are best for maintaining bone mass. The impact sports that are best are sports where your foot hits the ground with some force. Jogging, running around a basketball court, and jumping rope are high-impact. Walking, cross-country skiing, and inline skating are low-impact.

Take Calcium
If you already have signs of low bone mass, here's the Surgeon General's recommendation:

  • 1,000 mg of calcium a day from ages 19 to 50
  • 1,200 mg of calcium a day if you're over 50

Bone mass does matter. It can mean the difference between a hip fracture later in life – or keeping an active, high-energy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about a possible hormone deficiency or medical condition that could be weakening your bones.

This article first appeared in the May 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.