Bad to the Bone

The average cost of treatment for a hip fracture is about $30,000.

You men have probably heard that osteoporosis – the deterioration of bone mass that makes bones more susceptible to breaking – is a problem for women and dismissed it as a problem for you.

Though it is more common in women, according to the National Institute of Health, osteoporosis affects more than 2 million men in the United States.

One in four men older than 50 will have an osteoporotic-related fracture in his lifetime. And a fracture, which most often occurs in wrists, hips or the spine – common points of stress for long-haul truckers – will put you out of work, maybe permanently, due to complications. Not to mention that the average cost of treatment for a hip fracture is about $30,000.

Because there are no symptoms until the damage in the bone is advanced, people don’t discover they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. Men’s larger skeletons give them a temporary advantage because the bone loss starts later and progresses more slowly. But by age 65, men catch up to women and lose bone mass at the same rate.

Because men are generally older than women when they fracture or break a bone, they are often more severely disabled. More than half of all men who suffer a hip fracture are discharged to a nursing home, and 79 percent of those who survive for one year after a hip fracture still live in nursing homes or intermediate care facilities.

There is no cure for osteoporosis. But you can minimize your risk for the condition by leading a healthy lifestyle, exercising and getting the proper amount of calcium and vitamin D. Doctors typically recommend walking, climbing, running or other weight-bearing exercises, such as racquet sports and lifting weights, because the stress to the bones that helps maintain their density. There are common medications, too, for lowering your risk.

Often, even if you get a healthy daily intake of calcium, other parts of your diet – excessive meat and salt, for example – may interfere with your absorption of calcium. Vitamin D aids in that absorption and helps maintain normal levels of minerals in your bones.

Normally the body makes enough Vitamin D from exposure to as little as 10 minutes of sunlight a day. If exposure to sunlight is inadequate, dietary intake of Vitamin D should be at least 10 micrograms (sometimes expressed as 400 IU) but not more than 20 mcg (800 IU) per day for men over 50. Also, some medications are known to cause bone loss, so you should discuss with your doctor the effect of anything you’re taking.

Getting the right calcium intake is one of the chief ways to head off osteoporosis. The recommended daily amount is about 1,000 milligrams. Calcium is found naturally in:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Almonds

It’s also in calcium-fortified products, such as:

  • Orange juice
  • Cereal
  • Bread
  • Tofu products

National Institute of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases

National Osteoporosis Foundation

National Osteoporosis Society Online

International Osteoporosis Foundation

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