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Osteoporosis And Asian American Women

From the National Institutes of Health's Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center

Asian American women are at high risk for developing osteoporosis (porous bones), a disease that is preventable and treatable. Studies show that Asian Americans share many of the risk factors that apply to Caucasian women. As an Asian American woman, it is important that you understand what osteoporosis is and what steps you can take to prevent or treat it.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become less dense and more likely to fracture. If not prevented or if left untreated, bone loss can progress painlessly until a bone breaks, typically in the hip, spine, or wrist. A hip fracture can limit mobility and lead to a loss of independence, and vertebral fractures can result in a loss of height, stooped posture, and chronic pain.

What Are The Risk Factors For Osteoporosis?

There are several factors that increase your chances of developing osteoporosis, including:

  • a thin, small-boned frame
  • previous fracture or family history of osteoporotic fracture
  • estrogen deficiency resulting from early menopause (before age 45), either naturally, from surgical removal of the ovaries, or as a result of prolonged amenorrhea (abnormal absence of menstruation) in younger women
  • advanced age
  • a diet low in calcium
  • Caucasian and Asian ancestry (African American and Hispanic women are at lower but significant risk)
  • cigarette smoking
  • excessive use of alcohol
  • prolonged use of certain medications.
Are There Any Special Issues for Asian Women Regarding Bone Health?

Recent studies indicate a number of facts that highlight the risk that Asian American women face with regard to developing osteoporosis:
  • Compared to Caucasian women, Asian women have been found to consume less calcium. One reason for this may be that up to 90 percent of Asian Americans are lactose intolerant. Therefore, they may avoid dairy products, the primary source of calcium in the diet. Calcium is essential for building and maintaining a healthy skeleton.
  • Asian women generally have lower hip fracture rates than Caucasian women, although the prevalence of vertebral fractures among Asians seems to be as high as that in Caucasians.
  • Slender women have less bone mass than heavy or obese women and are, therefore, at greater risk for osteoporotic bone fractures.

For more information on minority health, visit the Office of Minority Health Resource Center

Last updated January 5, 2012