It's true that men are less likely than women to get osteoporosis, a disease that makes bones brittle and breakable. But if you think you're in the clear just because you're a guy, you're dead wrong. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, millions of men have the disease, and one in four guys over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis. And we're not just talking about an ankle or wrist – about 80,000 men break their hips every year, and guys are more likely than women to die after a hip fracture.
Even if 50 is far off, how you treat your bones today impacts how strong they'll stay down the road. Bones are living tissues that are continually building, breaking down, and rebuilding. And while this process usually goes off without a hitch when you're young, after about age 20, it starts stalling and can fall out of whack, especially if bones aren't getting the proper nutrients or activity. The result is less dense, more fragile bones, putting you on the fast track to osteoporosis. Here are the best ways to keep your skeleton sturdy.
Mind your meds.
Several widely used medications can cause bone loss, including the antacids Prilosec and Prevacid, blood-sugar-lowering drugs Actos and Avandia, anti-seizure meds Dilantin or phenobarbital, and antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro. "These medications drain magnesium stores, because magnesium is needed to break down and neutralize the drug chemicals in the liver," Dean says. Many drugs also alter hinder calcium absorption.
But the medications that are hardest on bones are corticosteroids such as prednisone and cortisone, according to Recker. He says people who use them frequently for skin problems, arthritis, or other inflammatory conditions tend to have significantly weakened bones. If you're on any prescription med, there's probably a good reason, and you won't likely ditch the drug for your bones' sake. Nor should you, says Recker, but then you'll "just have to work harder to prevent bone loss." Since the risk of bone loss increases with higher doses of corticosteroids, Recker says to make sure you're only taking as much as you need. If taking high doses of prednisone and cortisone, Recker suggests his patients take an osteoporosis medication right along with it to counteract the corticosteroid's effect.
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