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Men’s Silent Disease Risk: Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis in Men

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the skeleton to weaken and the bones to break. It poses a significant threat to more than 2 million men in the United States. After age 50, 6 percent of all men will experience a hip fracture and 5 percent will have a vertebral fracture as a result of osteoporosis.

Despite these compelling figures, a majority of American men view osteoporosis solely as a “woman’s disease,” according to a 1996 Gallup Poll. Moreover, among men whose lifestyle habits put them at increased risk, few recognize the disease as a significant threat to their mobility and independence.

Osteoporosis is called a “silent disease” because it progresses without symptoms until a fracture occurs. It develops less often in men than in women because men have larger skeletons, their bone loss starts later and progresses more slowly, and they have no period of rapid hormonal change and bone loss. However, in the last few years the problem of osteoporosis in men has been recognized as an important public health issue, particularly in light of estimates that the number of men above the age of 70 will continue to increase as life expectancy continues to rise.

Clearly, more information is needed about the causes and treatment of osteoporosis in men, and researchers are beginning to turn their attention to this long-neglected group.

For example, in 1999, the National Institutes of Health launched a major research effort that will attempt to answer some of the many remaining questions. The 7-year, multi-site study will follow more than 5,000 men ages 65 and older to determine how much the risk of fracture in men is related to bone mass and structure, biochemistry, lifestyle, tendency to fall, and other factors.

The results of such studies will help doctors to better understand how to prevent, manage, and treat osteoporosis in men. This fact sheet describes the highlights of what is already known.

Content Created/Medically Reviewed by our Expert Doctors
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