May is National Osteoporosis Month. Take steps now to improve bone health for yourself and your family.
Think osteoporosis is just a woman’s disease? Actually, it is not. In the United States, one in four men over age 50 will fracture a bone because of this disease. When it comes to men’s health, prostate cancer gets a lot of press, so it was surprising to me to learn that bone fractures from osteoporosis are more common in older men than prostate cancer.
Because more women are diagnosed with osteoporosis than men are, men are not routinely tested for the disease, even after a fracture. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, women over 50 are three times as likely as men to be tested for osteoporosis following a wrist fracture, a common early sign of osteoporosis. Untreated osteoporosis in men can have devastating consequences, as men are twice as likely as women are to die in the year following a hip fracture.
Risk factors for men include the same lifestyle habits that put women at risk—smoking, a diet low in calcium and vitamin D, little exercise, and too much alcohol. Some medications such as steroids affect bone density, and any chronic conditions that affect hormone levels, particularly testosterone, put men at risk as well.
As women, we are often the first line of defense in protecting the health of the men in our lives. If your husband is anything like mine, he does not remember to go to the doctor unless I make the appointment for him. Encourage your fathers, grandfathers, husbands, and brothers to follow our “8 Steps to Bone Health” and ask for a bone density screening, especially after a fracture. Better yet, protect your bone health at the same time by adopting healthier lifestyle changes together.
Karla Jacobs is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. She lives in Marietta with her husband, two kids, a dog, and some fish.