Asian-American Women and Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis and Asian American Women
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 debilitating disease characterized by low
bone mass and, thus, bones that are susceptible to fracture. If not prevented
or if left untreated, osteoporosis 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, while 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.
How Can Osteoporosis Be Prevented?
Building strong bones, especially before the age of 20, can be
the best defense against developing osteoporosis, and a healthy lifestyle can
be critically important for keeping bones strong. To help prevent
- Eat a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
- Exercise regularly, with an emphasis on weight-bearing activities such as
walking, jogging, dancing, and lifting weights.
- Don’t smoke and limit alcohol intake.
Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of
osteoporosis or other risk factors that may put you at increased risk for the
disease. Your doctor may suggest that you have your bone density measured
through a safe and painless test that can determine your risk for fractures
(broken bones), and measure your response to osteoporosis treatment. The most
widely recognized bone mineral density test is called a dual-energy x-ray
absorptiometry or DXA test. It is painless: a bit like having an x ray, but
with much less exposure to radiation. It can measure bone density at your hip