Osteoporosis in Minority Women Underdiagnosed

Anyone can be affected by osteoporosis, yet it is most common in postmenopausal women. Fractures resulting from Osteoporosis are about twice as common in women than in men. Many do not become aware of their condition until they suffer a painful fracture.

It is a common misconception that osteoporosis only affects white women. Incidence of osteoporosis and fracture is often under reported, especially in minority populations. While African American women tend to have higher bone mineral density than white women throughout life, they are still at significant risk of developing osteoporosis.

Asian and Hispanic Women

Asian women in general have been found to consume less calcium. One reason may be that up to 90% are believed to be lactose intolerant and avoid dairy products.

Studies show hispanic women are twice as likely to develop diabetes as white women, which may increase their risk for osteoporosis. There are several risk factors associated with osteoporosis. The more you possess the higher your risk.

In theory, based on lifestyle alone, minority women would appear to be at a higher risk for osteoporosis. However, most evidence indicates that African-Americans and Hispanic Americans have a lower risk of developing osteoporosis and osteoporotic fracture than Caucasians.

African American Women

Studies show that Asian and Caucasian women are at highest risk for developing osteoporosis, that African Americans have a substantially lower risk of osteoporosis and other minority populations have an intermediate risk of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is often misdiagnosed and under treated in African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans. One reason may be that they believe they are not at risk so they do not take preventative measures or seek early treatment. As African American women age, their risk for hip fracture doubles approximately every 7 years, they are also more likely than white women to die following a hip fracture.

Surveys show that African Americans consume less than half the recommended amount of calcium, another factor in osteoporosis. It is estimated that ten percent of Hispanic women over the age of 50 are afflicted with osteoporosis. Another 49 percent have low bone mass. Instances of hip fracture are on the rise and surveys show that Hispanics consume less calcium then recommended.

Hip vs. Vertebral Fractures

Asian women tend to have smaller builds, one of the risk factors for osteoporosis. Instances of hip fracture are lower than that of Caucasians, but instances of vertebral fracture are nearly equivalent. Asian women have also been found to consume less calcium.

Researchers have found that when comparing Caucasians, Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans with the African-American population, African Americans have the lowest risk of osteoporotic fractures in part due to higher bone mass density.
Most of these studies concentrated on instances of hip fracture. Instances among Native Americans are virtually unknown.

Though the incidence of osteoporosis may be lower in some populations, osteoporosis is a serious and often debilitating disease, the numbers may still be unacceptably high and should be addressed as an important health concern.

Photo by Jonathan Talbot, World Resources Institute, Creative Commons License. Near Masoala National Park, Madagascar. The woman is carrying gathered wood for a fire and a subtle but delicious fruit called ‘macooba.’