Regular exercise can help women
protect their bones and reduce
their risk for osteoporosis.
Women and osteoporosis
Caribbean Life, Aug. 2–8, 2019 29
Osteoporosis is disease of the bones that occurs
when a person loses too much bone, produces
too little bone, or both, and can affect both men
and women. Millions of men suffer from osteoporosis,
but the vast majority of people with this potentially
painful condition are women.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation,
roughly 80 percent of the 10 million Americans
with osteoporosis are women. Osteoporosis Canada,
which notes that between 70 and 80 percent of
osteoporotic fractures in Canada occur in women,
reports that the loss of estrogen production during
menopause production puts women at greater risk
for osteoporosis than men, as estrogen plays a vital
role in female bone health.
But age is not the only factor that infl uences a
woman’s risk for developing osteoporosis. Caucasian
women are most at risk for osteoporosis, and
the foundation estimates that 20 percent of Caucasian
women age 50 and older have the condition, and
more than half of Caucasian women age 50 and over
have low bone mass. That means that the bones of
more than 50 percent of Caucasian women over age
50 are weakening, potentially paving the way for osteoporosis
in the future.
Asian-American women are also at considerable
risk of developing osteoporosis, which affects
about the 20 percent of such women age 50 and older.
Low bone density is a concern for Asian-American
women, more than half of whom have the condition.
The outlook for African-American women is
not as bleak, as just fi ve percent of such women age
50 and older have osteoporosis. And while 35 percent
of African-American women have low bone
mass, recent research indicates that few African-
American women, even those who have risk factors
for the disease, are screened for osteoporosis.
Insisting on osteoporosis screening can help African
American women determine their true risk
for the disease.
Gender and aging are certainly beyond women’s
control, but these are not the only risk factors that
increase their chances of developing low bone density
or experiencing fractures and falls down the
road. Osteoporosis Canada notes additional risk
• If either parent has had a hip fracture
• Having had a prior fracture with minimal
• Long-term (more than three months) use of glucocorticoid
therapy, such as prednisone
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Current smoker
• History of falls in the previous 12 months
• Vertebral fracture apparent on X-ray
• High alcohol intake (three or more drinks per
• Weight loss greater than 10 percent since age 25
Despite the abundance of risk factors, the two
most prominent of which are beyond women’s control,
women are not helpless against osteoporosis.
Among the many things women can do to protect
their bones is exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced
diet that includes enough calcium and vitamin
D as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables. In addition,
avoiding or quitting smoking and limiting alcohol
consumption to no more than two to three drinks
per day can protect bones and make them less vulnerable
to breaks and the onset of osteoporosis.
Women can learn more about osteoporosis at
www.nof.org and www.osteoporosis.ca.