Men also at risk from osteoporosisNot everyone is aware that osteoporosis can affect men, as well as women. The number of male patients who suffered osteoporosis-caused bone fractures almost doubled in the last five years, according to a team of researchers led by Dr. Shin Chan-soo of the Seoul National University Hospital. Five to 10 percent of males suffer from osteoporosis, which often occurs in men who drink and smoke or are underweight.
Osteoporosis occurs primarily in women over the age of 69 because of the hormonal changes that take place during menopause, particularly a rapid decrease in the hormone estrogen. Estrogen is important for maintaining healthy bones and when its levels decrease during menopause, the bones lose calcium and other minerals more rapidly than before. However, the causes of osteoporosis in men are more diverse.
The biggest reason of men’s osteoporosis is aging. “When men age, their secretion of parathyroid hormone increases, but the secretion of male hormones decreases and bones become weaker,” said Dr. Choi Woong-hwan, a doctor of internal secretion at the Hanyang University Medical Center.
Genetics also play an important role and half the cases of osteoporosis are hereditary.
Drinking excessively and smoking can also increase a person’s chances of developing osteoporosis. Alcohol and nicotine represses the multiplication and function of osteoblast cells, from which bone develops, while increasing the activity of osteoclast cells, which break the bone down.
“Regular drinking also damages the liver and interferes with the metabolism of vitamin D, which is involved in absorbing calcium,” said Go Jeong-min, a doctor of internal secretion at the Asan Medical Center.
Being underweight can also contribute to the condition when a person’s nutritional intake is insufficient for maintaining healthy bones. Seven out of 10 Koreans have insufficient vitamin D and Koreans’ average intake of calcium is 600 milligrams a day, well below the recommended 800 milligrams.
Like other diseases, osteoporosis can be prevented by lowering risk factors. “The intake of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine needs to be reduced,” Dr. Go said.
People should also eat a healthy diet, paying special heed to their calcium and vitamin D intake and exercise to keep bones and muscles strong.
Usually, men start being tested for osteoporosis once they are over 65 years of age. However, those who have a family history of the condition, are seriously underweight or have a high alcohol intake should be tested earlier.
Those who have such risk factors should also avoid excessive amounts of meat or salt because when these are discharged from the body, they take calcium with them.
Bisphosphonates are used to inhibit the function of osteoclast cells. However, the use of these medicines is complicated and side effects can include gastrointestinal problems, abdominal or musculoskeletal pain, nausea, heartburn or irritation of the esophagus.
A new medicine that stimulates osteoblast cells and increases bone density is currently awaiting government approval to be used in Korea.
To prevent osteoporosis
1. Stay at a healthy weight.
2. Exercise regularly.
3. Refrain from smoking and drinking excessively.
4. Reduce caffeine intake.
5. Avoid excessive consumption of meat and salt.
6. Take vitamin D or get enough sunlight.
7. Take calcium. A cup of milk has 200 mg of calcium.
by Ko Jong-kwan