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Although African American women tend to have higher bone mineral density (BMD) than white women throughout life, they are still at significant risk of developing osteoporosis. The misperception that osteoporosis is only a concern for white women can delay prevention and treatment in African American women who do not believe they are at risk for the disease.
Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease characterized by low bone mass, which makes bones fragile and susceptible to fracture. Osteoporosis is known as a silent disease because symptoms and pain do not appear until a fracture occurs. Without prevention or treatment, 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, and vertebral fractures can result in a loss of height, stooped posture, and chronic pain.
Risk factors for developing osteoporosis include:
Many scientific studies highlight the risk that African American women face with regard to developing osteoporosis and fracture.
Osteoporosis prevention begins in childhood. The recommendations listed below should be followed throughout life to lower your risk of osteoporosis.
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 to 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 safe and painless, a bit like having an x-ray, but with much less exposure to radiation. This test can measure bone density at your hip and spine.
Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, several medications are available for the prevention and/or treatment of the disease, including: bisphosphonates; estrogen agonists/antagonists (also called selective estrogen receptor modulators or SERMS); calcitonin; parathyroid hormone; estrogen therapy; hormone therapy; and a recently approved RANK ligand (RANKL) inhibitor.
For more information on osteoporosis, including lactose intolerance, nutrition, exercise, treatment, and fall prevention for the elderly, visit:
Toll free: 800-624-BONE (2663)
For more information on minority health, visit:
This publication contains information about medications used to treat the health condition discussed here. When this publication was produced, we included the most up-to-date (accurate) information available. Occasionally, new information on medication is released.
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