Most women are aware of the risks of osteoporosis; but few know the extent of the risk. Low bone density affects women of all ages and ethnicities.
Some startling statistics published by the National Osteoporosis Foundation:
- Of the nearly 10 million people with osteoporosis, 8 million or 80% are women.
- In the years following menopause, women lose 20% of their bone density.
- 50% of women will break a bone from osteoporosis.
- A woman has a greater risk of breaking a hip than the combined risk of developing breast, uterine or ovarian cancer. 
Women are at greater risk than men for osteoporosis because they have smaller, thinner bones than men. The female hormone estrogen, generally protects bones, but when levels drop abruptly during menopause, women’s bones can become vulnerable.
There are risk factors for developing osteoporosis you can control including:
- Stop smoking
- Limit alcohol
- Consume enough calcium and vitamin D
- Exercise regularly
Some risk factors affect bone density you cannot control include:
- Treatment for cancer and rheumatoid arthritis
- Loss of estrogen
- Family history of osteoporosis
Who’s at risk?
Caucasian women have the highest risk of osteoporosis, but African, Asian and Hispanic American women are also at risk. Because many African, Asian and Hispanic women are lactose intolerant, it’s likely they do not consume enough calcium-rich dairy products.  In addition, people with darker skin pigmentation produce less vitamin D from sun exposure, so the calcium they do consume is not well absorbed. Also, African American women are more likely to have certain diseases, such as lupus, which can lead to bone loss.
Young girls should also be aware of bone health issues. To minimize future osteoporosis risk, girls should exercise, avoid drinking soda, and eat right to develop stronger bones for later in life. Premenopausal women in the their 20’s and 30’s can have low bone density, putting them at increased risk for developing osteoporosis when estrogen levels drop after menopause.
Osteoporosis is an important health concern for all women. Increased awareness coupled with advancements in prevention, screening and treatment make detecting, treating and living with it much more manageable.