While osteoporosis is most commonly associated with postmenopausal women, men are also at risk. About 2 million men in the United States currently have osteoporosis, and millions more have osteopenia.1
Some contributing factors are the same between genders, including diet, exercise frequency, and concurrent medical conditions. However, low and/or diminishing levels of testosterone are the most common causes of osteoporosis in men.
Osteoporosis Differences Between Men and Women
As women age and enter menopause, they experience a decline in estrogen levels. This decline leads to accelerated loss of trabecular bone, the spongy bone inside the hard cortical bone.
In men, however, osteoporotic bone loss is related to the natural decrease in the production the hormones estradiol (a type of estrogen) and testosterone with age. Instead of losing trabecular bone, men experience trabecular thinning. Because of this, men with osteoporosis experience slower bone loss with smaller decreases in bone mineral density.2
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Other differences between men and women are thought to contribute to the gap in osteoporosis rates. Men are, on average, more consistently physically active over their lifetimes than women, which helps prevent the loss of bone mass. Women also typically live longer than men, and the chances of developing osteoporosis increases with age.
- Robb-Nicholson, C. Osteoporosis in women — and men? Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School. April 27, 2010. Available at http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/osteoporosis-in-women-and-men. Accessed February 2015.
- Rao SS, Budhwar N, Ashfaque A. Osteoporosis in men. Am Fam Physician. 2010;82(5):503-8.