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J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 1999 Jun;8(5):609-15.

Osteoporosis and African American women.

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Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


The incidence of osteoporosis and related fractures in African American women is half that of Caucasian women. African American women who sustain osteoporosis-related fractures have increased disability and decreased survival. Given the exponential increase in hip fracture rate among African American women over the age of 70 years, the risk of osteoporosis among this population may be underestimated. This review focuses on racial differences in women's bone mineral density (BMD) and bone metabolism and on various explanations for these observed differences. Environmental risk factors for osteoporosis and related fractures among African American women and modalities for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis are discussed. African American women begin menopause with higher BMD and have lower rates of women's bone loss after menopause, which account for their decreased incidence of osteoporosis and related fractures. The risk factors for osteoporosis among African American women are similar to those found in Caucasian women. Lifestyle interventions, such as calcium and vitamin D supplementation, smoking cessation, and increased physical activity, should be encouraged to enhance peak bone mass and to decrease bone loss. These interventions and other treatment modalities, such as hormone replacement therapy, bisphosphonates, and selective estrogen receptor modulators, should be studied further in African American women.

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