Photo: Getty Images
Statistics show that osteoporosis is much more common in women than in men. Eighty percent of all people with osteoporosis are women. But that does not mean men are safe from the disease. With as many as 2 million men in the United States at risk for the osteoporosis, gender is not an excuse for anyone to ignore the health of his or her bones.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle. The word “osteoporosis” means “porous bone.” Instead of looking relatively solid, bones with osteoporosis look like a honeycomb with larger holes or spaces than are found in normal bone. This condition can make bones so weak that bending over, bumping into something, or even sneezing can cause a bone to break. The bones that are most likely to break are the wrist, hip, or spine, but other bones can also be easier to break than normal.
Over time, bone is normally reabsorbed by the body and new bone is created to replace it. Osteoporosis develops when new bone is not created fast enough to keep up with bone loss. Researchers know that calcium and phosphate are two minerals used by the body to make bone. As we age, the body can reabsorb these nutrients from bones, especially if the body is not getting enough calcium from food.
Osteoporosis often sneaks up on both men and women because there are no early symptoms to warn that bones are becoming weak. Some warning signs that you may be losing bone mass include:
• Back pain
• Getting shorter as you age
• Stooped posture
• Broken bones in the wrist, spine, hip, or other places
Osteoporosis has been tied to loss of the sex hormone estrogen in women. As estrogen levels drop around the time of menopause, the body may have difficulty using calcium effectively and may pull more calcium out of bones, causing the bones to grow weak. This means that women over the age of 50 have a higher risk of osteoporosis. Researchers have traditionally associated bone loss in men with the level of the sex hormone testosterone. But more recent studies have shown that bone loss in men may be more closely matched to levels of estrogen rather than testosterone.