Father’s Day is a good time to focus on men’s health, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames. 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.
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.
Men have larger, stronger bones than women, a major reason why osteoporosis affects fewer men than women. After age 50, 6 percent of all men will suffer a hip fracture as a result of osteoporosis. Despite the large number of men affected, osteoporosis in men is often overlooked and not diagnosed.
Bone is living, changing tissue. Throughout life, bone is being 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.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the following 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.
– Lifestyle habits: smoking, excessive alcohol use, low calcium intake, inadequate physical exercise.
– Age: bone loss increases with age.
– Race: Of all men, white men appear to be at greatest risk for osteoporosis; however, men from all ethnic groups develop osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can strike at any age, but the risk increases as you get older, Reames says. 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.
The diagnosis of osteoporosis in men is often overlooked. If you notice a loss of height, change in posture or sudden back pain, it is important to inform your doctor.
Reames advises the following steps will 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 ages 19-50 and 1,200 mg/day age 51 and over. Getting enough calcium throughout life is important because it helps build and keep strong bones. Healthy foods that are rich in calcium are: 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 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.
If you don’t get enough calcium from your food, the nutritionist says to consider 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 international units (IU) but not more than 800 IU/a day.
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.
If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, any exercise program should be evaluated for safety by your doctor 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.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or firstname.lastname@example.org