While females 50 and older are seven times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis, both genders can be affected. But neither older men nor older women are routinely discussing the bone-loss disease with their physicians, according to a survey by the Utah Department of Health. Osteoporosis is a key factor in falls that cause injuries among older Utahns.

Ten million Americans, including 55,000 Utahns, have been diagnosed with the disease. Of those 50 and older, 2.4 percent of men and 16.3 percent of women have the disease.

The 2006 report is the first time osteoporosis has been included among questions in the Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, says Kevin Condra, spokesman for the department of health's Violence and Injury Prevention Program.

The increased risk of osteoporosis for women is not surprising following menopause, because bones begin to lose density. "What was surprising — and confirmed by the survey — is there are a lot of women over 50 who have never talked to a physician about osteoporosis." That's even more true for men, he says.

Because the disease is more prevalent among women, "there are not a lot of recommendations for males, but our recommendation is, for those over 50, it's probably worthwhile for you to talk to a physician about it," Condra said.

Men fall as often or more often than women. And bone mass is a major issue in falls, he said.

The Utah Department of Health and the National Osteoporosis Foundation estimate that half of Americans age 50 and older will be at risk for fractures because of reduced bone mass by 2020.

The survey found that men are more likely to be doing muscle-strengthening activities at all ages than their female counterparts. Muscle-strengthening exercises reduce risks associated with osteoporosis and falls.

Calcium intake is not the only factor in predicting osteoporosis outcomes, according to the disease-specific report. The program recommends a combination of factors that can help treat the disease:

• Living a healthful lifestyle with no smoking or excessive alcohol

• Doing weight-bearing exercises

• Eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D

The survey found that women are four times more likely than men to have had a bone density test, perhaps because insurance programs may not cover the screening for men.

The report, available online at www.health.utah.gov/vipp, includes a list of recommendations and a companion report on lessening the chance of falling.

E-mail: lois@desnews.com