It should go without saying that Black women have bones that can become thin with age like any other women, but there is a widely held misconception that Black women don’t need to be concerned about osteoporosis. This myth helps to delay prevention and treatment for women who don’t believe or simply don’t know they are at risk. The reality is, there are several factors that may put Black women at even greater risk for osteoporosis. Here’s what you need to know to protect your bones and your health.
African Americans typically have greater bone density than Caucasians. However, studies show that after midlife, Black women’s risk of developing osteoporosis closely resembles that of their counterparts. In fact, between 80 and 95 percent of bone fractures among Black women over the age of 64 are due to osteoporosis.
What Is Osteoporosis?
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.
Key Risk Factors For Black Women
All women are at risk for developing osteoporosis with age, however, the following risk factors may be of greater concern for Black women:
Sickle Cell Anemia: Diseases that disproportionately affect African Americans, such as sickle cell anemia and lupus, can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. According to the CDC, sickle cell disease occurs in 1 out of every 500 African American births.
Calcium Deficiency: Calcium is the primary building block for strong bones and teeth and according to the NIH, African American women consume 50 percent less calcium than the Recommended Daily Allowance.
Lactose Intolerance: Something that hinder getting proper calcium intake is lactose intolerance, which affects nearly 74 percent of African Americans. Calcium can be found in dairy products, like milk, which many lactose intolerant people try to avoid.
Increased Hip Fracture Risk: The risk for hip fracture doubles nearly every seven years as Black women age. Black women are also more likely than White women to die following a hip fracture.
- Increase your daily calcium intake: If you are not lactose intolerant, dairy foods like low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt are good sources of calcium. You can also get calcium from dark, leafy greens and calcium supplements (see your doctor before taking supplements).
- Get more sun!: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and the sun is a natural source of vitamin D. Don’t forget to apply your sunscreen first before soaking up the sun.
- Exercise: Take time daily to move your body and strengthen your bones. Try strength training with weights, yoga, walking and jump rope.
- Limit alcohol: Alcohol has been shown to lower bone density. Try to limit yourself to no more than one drink per day. If you smoke, it’s best to quit that as well.