Osteoporosis is typically thought of as a concern for post-menopausal women.
But according to a small new study, a surprisingly high number of young and middle-aged men are at risk of developing the condition.
Scientists say that nearly one in three men between ages 35 and 50 have osteopenia, a condition that causes weak bones and is a precursor to osteoporosis.
The team, from the University of Mississippi, says the findings show that doctors need to be scanning and monitoring adults from a younger age as well as for more education and awareness in children of their risk.
A new study from the University of Mississippi has found that 28% of men and 26% of women between ages 35 and 50 have osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis (file image)
Almost 10 million Americans are suffering from osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become weak and brittle.
Fractures, particularly of the hip, can have serious consequences. Complications of a hip fracture lead to permanent disability rates of 50 percent.
Additionally, women have a 15 to 20 mortality rate in the year after injury and men have a 33 percent mortality rate.
For the study, published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, the team looked at the bone mineral density of nearly 200 adults between ages 35 and 50.
The adults were scanned at the femoral hip and the lumbar spine, or the lower back, two areas known for being susceptible to fractures.
Results showed that 26 percent of female participants had osteopenia as well as 28 percent of the male participants.
Osteopenia occurs when the bones are weaker than normal, but not yet at the point where they break easily.
The condition typically doesn’t have any visible symptoms, which makes it difficult to diagnose without a bone mineral density test.
‘Men are at a potentially greater risk than we once thought and it was definitely more than what were expecting,’ co-author Dr Allison Ford, a professor of health, exercise science and recreational management at the University of Mississippi, told DailyMail.com.
However, she noted that because the study included a small number of a participants, more large-scale studies are needed to replicate the findings before we can know if they translate to the general public.
The researchers say that the best way to maintain bone health is through weight-bearing exercises, which include walking, jogging, hiking and dancing.
These exercises force the bones to work against gravity and, by supporting weight, become stronger.
More than half of the participants said they exercised, including the majority of the male participants, who mostly reported that they cycled.
Dr Ford says that although cycling is a good workout for the cardiovascular system, it is not a weight-bearing exercise, and therefore not ideal for strengthening the bones.
She added that the majority of the US does not meet the recommended exercise guidelines – only about 20 percent do – meaning this finding may not necessarily translate to the general population.
Dr Ford said that another reason for the low bone density of the adults could be that they were not getting enough calcium and vitamin D in their diets, which could have affected their osteoporosis risk.
In fact, most of the participants said they consumed less than three servings of dairy per day.
‘We’re in a society now of unhealthy habits when it comes to what we eat and exercise as seen with the obesity epidemic,’ Dr Ford said.
‘So if you’re not being nutritionally aware and not getting enough vitamin D along with the calcium, you’re going to have lower bone density.’