WABC—May 5, 2008
When you think of osteoporosis, you might think it's something that affects women. But now, there are new guidelines to protect men from it.
Many older women are aware of the risks of osteoporosis. It can happen when the bones begin to get brittle and break down. But few men know that they too could be susceptible to the disease.
Osteoporosis is a gradual disease. It slowly makes bones fragile, porous and brittle.
Most at risk are the bones that hold us up - the spine and hip bones.
The disease is most common in women, but men are also at risk.
"It is significantly under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated," said Dr. Amir Qaseem, of the American College of Physicians.
So to change that under-diagnosis and under-treatment, Dr. Qaseem and his colleagues are recommending that some older men get screened for the disease.
Screening would involve having a bone scan called a DEXA scan. It's the same test that is done yearly for many older women at risk.
Men over age 65 are at risk of having or developing osteoporosis if they have other risk factors.
"Low body weight, weight loss, fractures in the absence of substantial trauma and lack of physical activity," Dr. Qaseem said.
A lifetime of smoking could also put a man at higher risk. So can a long history of taking cortisone, a drug used to treat asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Screening for osteoporosis is a discussion older men should have with their doctors, according to Dr. Linda Russell, an osteoporosis specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery.
"If a man knows that somebody in his family, his mom or his dad, broke a hip, that would also be important to point out to his doctor," she said. "Because he also would be an important person to screen."
And the consequences of not getting treated are serious, says Dr. Russell.
"One thing we now know is that if a man gets a hip fracture, he is twice as likely to die of a complication of that hip fracture than a woman," she said. "So we actually have to take osteoporosis seriously in men, because the consequences can be more severe."
The new guidelines will encourage more doctors to think about osteoporosis prevention for their patients. Exercise, calcium, vitamin D intake and not smoking are all ways to keep older bones healthy.
Experts say one in six men over age 65 suffers from osteoporosis.
This story originally appeared at WABC.com.