Consider men’s bone health this Father’s Day

Elizabeth S. Reames, Bogren, Richard C.  |  6/12/2008 12:33:33 AM

News You Can Use Distributed 06/11/08

About 2 million American men have osteoporosis, and another 12 million are at risk for this disease, reports LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

“Father’s Day is a good time to focus on men’s health,” Reames said. “And osteoporosis in men remains underdiagnosed and underreported. Although many people think of osteoporosis as a woman’s disease, it is also a serious health problem for men.”

Losing height or breaking a bone may be the first sign of osteoporosis. If you notice a loss of height, change in posture or sudden back pain, it is important to tell your doctor, Reames said.

“Osteoporosis can strike at any age, but the risk increases as you get older,” Reames said. “Men tend to get it about 10 years later in life than women. After age 50, six percent of all men will suffer a hip fracture because of osteoporosis. Men have larger, stronger bones than women, which is a major reason why osteoporosis affects fewer men than women.”

Because bone is living, changing tissue, it is constantly being removed and rebuilt during life. Maximum height is reached during the teen years, but bones continue to become denser (stronger) until about age 30.

“After that point, bones slowly start to lose density,” Reames said.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation lists the following risk factors 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.

– Lifestyle habits including smoking, excessive alcohol use, low calcium intake and inadequate physical exercise.

Other factors include age, heredity and race. White men appear to be at greatest risk for osteoporosis; however, men from all ethnic groups develop osteoporosis.

Reames said the following steps will help to preserve bone health:

– Treat any medical conditions that affect bone health.

– Identify medications you are taking that are known to cause bone loss.

– Don't smoke and avoid excessive alcohol intake.

– Be physically active every day.

Reames said men should 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,” she said. “If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, any exercise program should be evaluated for safety by your doctor before you begin.”

Reames recommends getting enough calcium throughout life to build and keep strong bones. Ensure a calcium intake of 1,000 mg a day to from 19 to 50 years old and 1,200 mg a day after age 51.

Healthy foods rich in calcium 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.

– Orange juice, cereals and breakfast bars with added calcium.

Reames suggests adding nonfat powdered dry milk to puddings, homemade cookies, breads or muffins, soups, gravy, casseroles and even a glass of milk.

“A single tablespoon of nonfat powdered dry milk adds 52 mg of calcium, and 2 to 4 tablespoons can be added to most recipes,” she says.

“If you don’t get enough calcium from your food, you might think about taking a calcium supplement,” Reames said. “Always check with your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.”

Reames advises getting adequate vitamin D, too.

“Normally, the body makes enough vitamin D from exposure to as little as 10 minutes of sunlight a day,” she said. “If exposure to sunlight is inadequate, then vitamin D intake from supplements should be at least 400 IU – international units used to measure vitamin doses – but not more than 800 IU a day.”

Reames said approved medications as prescribed by your physician can slow or stop bone mass loss.

For additional information about fitness, food and nutrition, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com

Contact: Beth Reames at (225) 578-3929 or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

Editor: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or rbogren@agcenter.lsu.edu

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