Posted on 26 October 2022
Men’s guide to osteoporosis
We often think about osteoporosis as a disease that affects women, but men can get osteoporosis too. It’s important that men can recognise the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis – and what they can do to build stronger bones.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens bones. Over time, bones become weaker, which makes you more likely to experience a fracture or break.
Many people don’t know they have osteoporosis until they experience a fracture or break. This can happen anywhere in the body, but it’s most common in the wrist, hip, or spine.
Osteoporosis can cause bones to get weaker – in some cases, losing significant amounts of bone, but there are few symptoms. Osteoporosis is painless as it develops, but as anyone who has experienced it can agree, broken bones hurt anywhere in the body!
Bone loss doesn’t happen over time but over the years. Our bones hit a peak density in our 30s, after which we lose bone. The stage before osteoporosis is osteopenia, where your bone density is lower than your average.
The truth is that we all lose bone density as we get older. While men and women can’t stop our bodies from losing bone, there are some things that we can all do to build stronger bones. Read on…
Do men get osteoporosis?
Evidence suggests that men develop osteoporosis later than women – sometimes up to 10 years later.
This may sound encouraging, but when men develop osteoporosis, the outcomes are much worse, with men more likely to experience fractures and complications.
Studies show that men are less likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis than women or receive treatment. This may be why men are more likely to experience worse outcomes.
The likelihood of fracturing or breaking a bone (“osteoporotic fracture”) is 10-25% – that’s about the same for both men and women.
Men can – and do – develop osteoporosis, but they are less likely to seek a diagnosis which delays treatment. The result is that men can experience worse outcomes if they do develop osteoporosis.
What causes osteoporosis in men?
Losing bone density is a natural part of the ageing process. As we get older, we all lose bone density. However, osteoporosis is a health condition that should be diagnosed as soon as possible.
In many cases, there are no clear causes for osteoporosis in men, says the NHS.
There are some things that could raise your risk of developing osteoporosis:
- taking certain medicines, such as steroid tablets
- alcohol misuse
- hypogonadism (a condition that causes abnormally low testosterone levels)
Men and women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, say experts. This suggests that osteoporosis may run in families (be hereditary).
Some of the other risk factors for osteoporosis include an unhealthy lifestyle (smoking, not exercising, and a low-calcium intake) and age.
How can I check my risk of developing osteoporosis?
The Royal Osteoporosis Society has created a helpful symptom checker that anyone can use to assess their risk of developing osteoporosis.
You can access the Royal Osteoporosis Society risk checker here.
(Don’t forget to come back when you’re done!)
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis in men?
As we’ve explained before, osteoporosis has no symptoms in many cases. A bone fracture or break may be the first sign that something is wrong (and it’s a pretty major sign!).
Some warning signs for older men include a loss of height, a change in posture and sudden back pain (without a clear cause).
Before diagnosing osteoporosis, your doctor will ask you a series of questions and may send you for tests, including a DEXA scan, which measures how strong your bones are. It’s totally painless and is like having an x-ray (but with less radiation).
What can men do to build stronger bones?
Every man of any age can start to build stronger bones today. There are several things we can all do to improve our bone health, including:
- Stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol
- Eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals
- Getting enough vitamin D
- Getting enough calcium
- Regularly exercising – including weight-bearing exercise
This is a short run-down of some things you should do to improve bone health. We into greater detail in our guide on how to make your bones stronger.
What supplements should I take to build stronger bones?
While it’s possible to get the vitamins and minerals from your diet alone, many of us don’t. It’s why the NHS recommends that all of us take a vitamin D supplement during spring, autumn and winter.
OK, so most of us know that calcium plays a crucial role in the bone-building process, but you need vitamin D to ensure you get enough of it. Why? Because most of us get enough calcium through food, but we need enough vitamin D for our bodies to utilise the calcium.
Alongside vitamin D and calcium supplements, many people worried about osteoporosis (or living with it) take magnesium, vitamin K and more.
You can read about suitable supplements you can take to prevent bone loss in our detailed guide on the best supplements for osteoporosis.
Are you worried about your bone health?
If you’re worried about your bone health, you should speak to a doctor.
The information here is to help you, but you should always speak with a medical professional. Doctors are experts at spotting the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis and can help you.
All of us at Stronger Bones hope you don’t have osteoporosis, but if you do, your doctor will provide the guidance, treatment and support you need.
Why Stronger Bones wants us all to get serious about our bone health
Too many of us take our bones for granted, and that’s bad. To enjoy a full life, we need to ensure our bones are as strong as possible for as long as possible – that’s why we want everyone to get serious about their bone health.
We’re on a mission to raise awareness of the risks of osteoporosis and identify available help.
Come on, Britain, let’s all get serious about our bone health!