Elizabeth S. Reames | 5/27/2005 1:21:08 AM
Father’s Day is a good time to focus on men’s health. Although many people think of osteoporosis as a woman’s disease, it is also a serious health problem for men, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
Two million American men have osteoporosis, and another 12 million are at risk for this disease. Experts estimate that one-fifth to one-third of all hip fractures occur in men and that symptomatic vertebral (spine) fractures occur about half as often in men as in women.
After age 50, 6 percent of all men will suffer a hip fracture because of osteoporosis. In spite of the large number of men affected, osteoporosis in men is often overlooked and not diagnosed.
Bone is living, changing tissue. Throughout life, bone is removed and rebuilt. During youth, bones grow in length and density. Maximum height is reached during the teen years, but bones continue to become denser until about age 30 when peak bone density is attained. After that point, bones slowly start to lose density or strength.
Bone density is affected by heredity, diet, sex hormones, physical activity, lifestyle choices and the use of certain medications. Men have larger, stronger bones than women, a major reason why osteoporosis affects fewer men than women.
Reames says osteoporosis can strike at any age, but the risk increases as you get older. Men tend to get it about 10 years later in life than women. This difference has been attributed to a higher peak bone mass at maturity and a more gradual reduction in sex steroid influence in aging men. Losing height or breaking a bone may be the first sign of osteoporosis.
The LSU AgCenter nutritionist says a number of risk factors are associated with osteoporosis in men.
• Prolonged exposure to certain medications, such as steroids used to treat asthma or arthritis, anticonvulsants, certain cancer treatments and aluminum-containing antacids.
• Chronic disease that affects the kidneys, lungs, stomach and intestines and alters hormone levels.
• Undiagnosed low levels of the sex hormone testosterone.
• Race. White men appear to be at greatest risk for osteoporosis. Men from all ethnic groups, however, develop osteoporosis.
• Other risk factors include smoking, excessive alcohol use, low calcium intake, inadequate physical exercise, increasing age and heredity.
The nutritionist recommends taking various steps to help preserve bone health.
• Recognize and treat any underlying medical conditions that affect bone health.
• Identify and evaluate the use of medications that are known to cause bone loss.
• Change unhealthy habits, such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake and inactivity.
• Ensure a daily calcium intake of 1,000 mg/day to from 19 – 50 years and 1,200 mg/day age 51 and over. Getting enough calcium throughout life is important because it helps to build and keep strong bones.
Healthy calcium-rich foods include low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as cheese, yogurt and milk; canned fish with bones you can eat, such as salmon and sardines; dark-green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collard and broccoli; and orange juice, cereals and breakfast bars that have added calcium.
Reames says to add non-fat powdered dry milk to puddings, homemade cookies, breads or muffins, soups, gravy, casseroles and even a glass of milk. A single tablespoon of non-fat powdered dry milk adds 52 mg of calcium. From 2 to 4 tablespoons can be added to most recipes.
If you don’t get enough calcium from your food, you might think about taking a calcium supplement. Always check with your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.
Ensure adequate vitamin D intake. Normally, the body makes enough vitamin D from exposure to as little as 10 minutes of sunlight a day. If exposure to sunlight is inadequate, vitamin D intake from supplements should be at least 400 IU but not more than 800 IU per day.
To strengthen bones, engage in weight-bearing exercises where bone and muscles work against gravity. This includes walking, jogging, racquet sports, stair climbing and team sports. Also, lifting weights or using resistance machines appears to help preserve bone density.
"Exercise also improves balance and muscle tone and imparts a sense of well-being," Reames adds, but advises that if you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, have your doctor evaluate any exercise program for safety before you begin. Twisting motions and impact activities may need to be curtailed, depending on the severity of your condition.
Use approved medications to slow or stop bone mass as prescribed by your physician.
For additional information about fitness, food and nutrition, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. For information on related family and consumer topics, link to the FCS Web site from the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com.