Men have never been thought to be at risk from osteoporosis as it has been seen as exclusively a disease that affects women. However the increase in mens exposure to excess oestrogen – known as oestrogen dominance – is having its effect on several areas of mens health.
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What Is Osteoporosis?
There is much information about osteoporosis in women, but in men it is still largely unrecognised. If you’re not sure exactly what osteoporosis is, the World Health Organization defines it as:
“A disease characterized by low bone mass and microarchitectural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to enhanced bone fragility and a consequent increase in fracture risk”.
In simple terms this means that the bone is not as strong as it should be and there is therefore an increased risk of fractures. Bone is a living tissue and, like all living tissues in the body, it is constantly being renewed as old bone is cleared away and new bone built up to replace it.
When we are young and growing, bone is built up much faster than it is broken down, and maximum bone density should be reached at about the age of 25. If maximum bone density is not reached by that time then the risk of osteoporosis in later life is increased.
By the time we are in our early thirties bone starts to break down faster than it is built up and as a result the bone density decreases by about 1% a year. This 1% loss remains more or less constant for men for the rest of their lives.
Key Risk Factors For Men
Unfortunately there are no real warning signs, but there are now identifiable areas of higher risk. You cannot diagnose osteoporosis just by looking, or by conventional Xray. The only sure way is to have a DEXA scan which your doctor can arrange if you have a history of osteoporosis in the family, or have been breaking bones more often, and more easily, than before.
These new risk factors increasing the risk of bone fragility in men were identified from work done by Robert Rudäng at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Men whose maternal or paternal grandfather have suffered a hip fracture have a clearly increased risk of osteoporosis in the form of low bone density and smaller bone size. Compared with men whose maternal or paternal grandfather had not broken their hip, the difference is between 3 to 5 per cent
The same risk, though not so pronounced, is found in the case of men born to an older mother
Smoking increases the risk as the study found that the development of bone density in the lumbar region and hip for men who start smoking around 20 is only half as satisfactory up to the age of 25 or so, when compared with non-smokers
Suffering a fracture in childhood or adolescence has a clear link with microstructure impairment of the skeleton in young adult men, which in the study is shown to contribute to lowering skeletal strength by roughly 3 to 4 per cent.
What Can You Do?
The first thing is to eliminate or reduce as many of your risk factors as you can. Obviously there is nothing you can do about your family history, but getting good weight bearing exercise into your life on a regular basis is what helps keep bones strong, staying at a healthy weight to reduce oestrogen overload and giving up smoking will all make a substantial difference.
If you want more focused help then the late John Lee, MD (the pioneer of bioidentical progesterone usage) always believed that as bone structure in men and women is inherently the same, then the same treatment will be effective.
In men he saw osteoporosis more frequently in those with a history of low levels or lack of testosterone and higher levels of oestrogen. As progesterone is what helps build bone then supplementing with a bioidentical form such as Serenity would be protective initially if you are at risk and can help build new bone.