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Men Far Less Likely to Prevent & Screen for Osteoporosis

While the consequences of osteoporosis are worse in men than women – including death – older males are far less likely to take preventive measures against the potentially devastating bone-thinning disease or accept recommendations for screening, according to research done by North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System geriatricians and presented at The American Geriatrics Society’s 2015 Annual Scientific Meeting in Washington, DC in May.

A release from LIF reports that geriatric fellow Irina Dashkova, MD designed and led a cross-sectional survey of 146 older adults in New York and Florida that showed stunning gender differences in perspectives, beliefs and behaviors surrounding osteoporosis, which primarily affects women but also affects up to 2 million American men. Another 8 million to 13 million men in the United States have low bone mineral density, a condition known as osteopenia that’s a precursor to osteoporosis.

The release quotes Dr. Dashkova, lead author of the study, as saying, “We were surprised at how big a difference we found between men and women regarding osteoporosis. The fact that longevity is increasing in our population is wonderful. But we know from research that when men suffer fractures, their mortality is higher than in women and that severe medical consequences and loss of independence are much more prevalent in men. In our environment, you just get this perception that osteoporosis is a women’s problem. This has to be changed, and the sooner the better.”

More than 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis – raising their risk for serious bone fractures – and another 43 million have low bone mineral density, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Prior research showed that 13% of white men in the United States over age 50 will experience at least one osteoporosis-related fracture during their lifetime.

Strikingly, the risk of death after sustaining a hip fracture is twice as high in men compared to women, and loss of independence is also more common in males. Some medical conditions and drugs that can affect osteoporosis risk are male-specific, such as prostate cancer drugs that affect the production of testosterone or the way it works in the body.

Dr. Dashkova’s research, in which she collaborated with mentoring author Gisele Wolf-Klein, MD, director of geriatric education for the North Shore-LIJ Health System, examined the psychological and social factors surrounding osteoporosis influencing each gender.

Among the 146 survey respondents, roughly one-third were men with an average age of 72. More than 70% were white. Women were far more likely to have never smoked compared to men (78.8% compared to 21.3%) and markedly more likely to report a family history of osteoporosis (nearly 91% compared to 9.1%).


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