Osteoporosis in Men

Even though most people who don't have it think of osteopororis as an "old woman's disease", doctors say old men account for a large number of osteoporosis cases, and millions more are at risk for it as the baby boom generation gets up in years. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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If all you knew about osteoporosis, or bone loss, was what the news media say about it, you would think only women come down with it. Almost every news story you see or hear about it focuses on women. TV and radio commercials for high-calcium supplements and osteoporosis medications are aimed at women. You may be surprised to know that more than two million American men now suffer from osteopororis, and at least 12 million more are at risk for it. Houston osteoporosis expert Dr. Rebecca Clearman says she's baffled at why it seems to be associated only with women.

"You know I ask myself that question all the time, and, women have 80 percent of the cases that we know of right now." 

Dr. Clearman says bone weakness caused by osteoporosis is one of those problems that people don't even know they have until something else happens as a result of the weakness. Many learn of it for the first time when they develop other health problems, or fall and break an arm, leg or hip. Clearman says men are just as prone to having it as women as they get older, and men need high-calcium diets every bit as much as women.

"All the women know we're supposed to take calcium supplements, but actually, men have the same exact calcium recommendations, which is a thousand milligrams a day if you're under 50, and 1200 if you're over fifty."

Dr. Clearman says men's and women's dietary needs in this area aren't very different. To maintain bone strength, both need foods high in calcium, and calcium dietary supplements such as Vitamin D every day.  She also recommends a regular bone density scan, which is included in healthy woman exams, but men don't usually get one unless there's another problem that creates a need for the scan. Clearman thinks men should ask their doctor to include a bone scan in their routine physical.

"Men should have that test as well. I don't think that it is one of those recommended tests. I believe men over 50 should get a screening bone density test every five years."

There's more information about osteoporosis in men on our website KUHF dot Org.  Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.