Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced, leading to weakness of the skeleton and increased risk of fracture. Osteoporosis literally means "porous bone". When a bone has become osteoporotic or osteopenic (low bone mass), the risk of a fracture increases. The wrist/forearm, spine and hip are the most common fracture sites, accounting for more than 80 percent of all fractures.
About 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 years will facture a bone. Approximately 40% of women don't have bones that are as strong as they should be for their age, putting them at increased risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. People should reach 'peak bone mass' at around the age of 25, but sometimes this does not occur. Children and teenagers should be encouraged to exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet to promote strong bones.
People are often unaware of Osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. In many affected people, bone loss is gradual and without symptoms or warning signs until the disease is advanced. Osteoporosis is a global problem, which is increasing in significance as the population of the world both grows and ages. For these reasons, Osteoporosis is often referred to as the "silent epidemic".
More women die from an osteoporosis related fracture than from cancer of the ovary, cervix and uterus combined.
Many people think of osteoporosis as an "an old woman's disease". This is a misconception. Bone loss in women can begin as early as age 25. Once oestrogen levels start to fall after the menopause, bones thin more quickly which explains why Osteoporosis becomes so much more common in women after the menopause, including many women in their 50's.
Osteoporosis and Men
Osteoporosis tends to be thought of as a condition that affects only menopausal women, but men are also affected. Although the occurrence of Osteoporosis in men is less common than in women, its effects in terms of morbidity and mortality are higher.
Men tend to have fewer fractures than women, but they get them at an older age than women do. It is also probable that the incidence of osteoporosis in men is at present underestimated because of the belief that it is a disease that primarily affects women. As a result, men are not screened until they develop a problem such as a fracture which is then found to be due to Osteoporosis. Screening men to detect the early stages of the condition is not widely available but the study of osteoporosis in men continues and it is hoped it will be taken more seriously. Dexascan Services offers scans for men aged between 20 and 90, so that they can monitor their bone health.
Risk Factors in Men
Many of the risk factors for osteoporosis in men are the same as those for women.
There are however factors specific to men such as:
Delayed puberty - Low body weight - Low muscle mass - Low testosterone levels
In a young man, a low testosterone level appears to inhibit the build-up on bone. In later life, when metabolism should be stable, a low testosterone level seems to increase bone loss. This is a similar effect to that seen in older women with very low oestrogen levels.
Of all men found to have osteoporosis, 50% will be diagnosed as idiopathic, which simply means we do not know the cause. This is probably because osteoporosis in men has not been studied to the same extent as it has in women to date.
Preventative treatment for men is the same as that for women. The vital components are to have a good balanced diet, and have plenty of weight bearing exercise.