Osteoporosis not properly treated in men, resulting in gender medical gap

The International Osteoporosis Foundation defines the condition as a disease that causes fragile bones. Picture: Supplied

The International Osteoporosis Foundation defines the condition as a disease that causes fragile bones. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 21, 2022

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The International Osteoporosis Foundation defines the condition as a disease that causes fragile bones.

Since it has no overt symptoms, many people are unaware they have osteoporosis until they break a bone.

Life-changing fractures can result in pain, disability and loss of independence, making prevention crucial.

Nicole Jennings, a spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, said in a statement nearly a million of the country's 4.3 million men over the age of 50 are at risk of developing osteoporosis. That equates to roughly one in every five men.

She said osteoporosis has gone largely untreated in men, even though they account for one-third of all hip fractures worldwide.

According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, clinicians believe the decline in bone density and its complications affect only postmenopausal women. However both genders are susceptible to osteoporosis and its complications, although the rates and ages vary.

According to Jennings, the “high incidence of hip and vertebral fractures in men, as well as the impact it has on their quality of life, highlights that osteoporosis is not only a woman’s disease and that it should be screened for and treated the same as for women”.

She says the onset of the disease is something that is routinely checked when women reach menopause because the loss of oestrogen causes bone loss. "However, all men over the age of 50 should be screened,” she advises.

Jennings explains that there are two types of osteoporosis: "primary osteoporosis," which is typically brought on by age-related bone loss, and "secondary osteoporosis," which may be brought on by a lack of vitamin D, insufficient calcium intake, an overactive thyroid, low testosterone, or the use of drugs that affect bone metabolisms, such as glucocorticoids or hormonal therapies for prostate cancer.

“Unhealthy lifestyle factors also play a role. These include a poor diet, alcohol abuse, smoking and not getting enough exercise. A family history, low body mass index (BMI), or smaller bone structure also play a part in osteoporosis risk,” says Jennings.

To limit your risk of osteoporosis, Jennings recommends the following action:

1. Consume foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D. Daily sun exposure is another healthy way of getting enough vitamin D. oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, red meat, liver, and egg yolks

2. 30-40 minutes of weight-bearing exercises: weight training, hiking, stair-climbing, walking, jogging, etc at least three to four times a week.

3. Limit alcohol consumption: no more than two units per day.

4. Quit smoking: Smoking increases your risk of a fragility fracture and hip fracture by 29% and 68% respectively.

5. Go for screening to assess your risk: If you fall into a high-risk category, take your medication as prescribed.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.