Research published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association reports that 28% of men and 26% of women between 35 and 50 years of age had osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis.
The findings surprised the participants and researchers, who did not expect the condition to be more prevalent in men. Osteopenia occurs when bones are weaker than normal, but do not yet break easily.

Bone health assessments can help middle-aged adults understand their future risk of osteoporosis. Fractures are often the first symptom of osteoporosis after years of silent and progressive bone loss, they note, in a media release from the American Osteopathic Association.

“We typically associate loss of bone mineral density with post-menopausal women, but our findings showed elevated risk in younger men,” says Martha Ann Bass, PhD, Associate Professor of Health, Exercise Science and Recreational Management at University of Mississippi, and the study’s lead author.

“Almost all participants who were found to have osteopenia were surprised and I think this is a more prevalent issue than anyone expected.”

In her study, Bass analyzed the bone mineral density of 173 adults between 35 and 50 years old. Participants were scanned at the femoral hip and lumbar spine, using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, while exposing patients to a minimal dose of radiation.

Based on the findings, Bass believes more middle-aged adults should be scanned to understand their risk and establish a baseline for monitoring.

She adds in the release that while a balanced diet is always important, patients may overestimate the value of calcium in maintaining bone health.

“Calcium plays a larger role when bones are still developing,” Bass comments. “After that, the body begins to rely on weight-bearing exercise to keep bones strong. It really does boil down to use it or lose it.”

[Source(s): American Osteopathic Association, EurekAlert]