A project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

Skip Navigation

Womens Health logo
En Español

Minority Women's Health

divider line


Osteoporosis (OSS-tee-oh-puh-ROH-suhss) is a disease that thins and weakens the bones. This makes it easier for bones to break. There are no symptoms. In fact, many people don't know they have osteoporosis until they break a bone.

Like all women, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are at risk of osteoporosis. This risk is especially high in people who do not consume enough calcium. Many minority women have trouble digesting milk products. This is called lactose intolerance. This limits the ability to get calcium from food.

You can take steps to help prevent osteoporosis:

  • Get enough calcium each day. Bones are made of calcium. You can get calcium through the food you eat, calcium pills, or both. Foods rich in calcium include dairy products such as low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt, cereals and orange juice with calcium added, and leafy green vegetables. You can get calcium pills at the grocery or drug store. Talk to your doctor before taking calcium pills. Follow these guidelines to be sure you get enough:
    • Women ages 19 to 50 need at least 1,000 mg of calcium every day.
    • Women over age 50 need at least 1,200 mg every day.

    If you are lactose intolerant, try eating dairy foods in small amounts over the day and eating morenondairy, calcium-rich foods. Lactase pills can help make it easier to digest dairy products. You also can take more calcium supplements.

  • Get enough vitamin D each day. Vitamin D helps your body take in calcium. One way to get vitamin D is through sunlight. But you need 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight to the hands, arms, and face, two to three times a week to get enough vitamin D. The amount of sun exposure any one person needs depends on how sensitive your skin is to light, use of sunscreen, skin color, and pollution. A second way is eating foods rich in vitamin D, such as fortified milk. A third way is by taking a vitamin D pill. Ask your doctor how much vitamin D you need.
  • Get moving. Activities that make bones stronger include walking, jogging, stair-climbing, dancing, and lifting weights. Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week:
    • 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
    • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
    • A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity
    • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week
  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. For help along the way, check out our Quitting Smoking section.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day. Heavy drinking is linked to lower bone density and high risk of bone breaks.

Talk to your doctor about your osteoporosis risk. All women over 65 should have a bone mineral density test.

Return to top

More information on Osteoporosis

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Osteoporosis Fact Sheet - This osteoporosis fact sheet provides information on risk factors, prevention tips, and treatment options. It also includes information on osteoporosis in men and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Explore other publications and websites

  • Bone Mineral Density Test - This publication provides an overview of the bone mineral density (BMD) test. A BMD test can help your doctor check for and monitor osteoporosis.
  • For People With Osteoporosis: How to Find a Doctor - This publication provides information on how to find the right doctor to treat osteoporosis. It also includes information on the different types of specialists who treat osteoporosis.
  • Osteoporosis - This publication contains general information about osteoporosis, such as what causes it, who's at risk, and how you can lower your chances of getting it.
  • Osteoporosis (Copyright © Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine) External Website Policy - This interactive tool estimates your risk of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis and provides personalized tips for prevention. Anyone can use it, but it's most accurate for people who haven't had significant bone loss. If you've already had problems with bone loss, be sure to talk to your doctor about your risk.
  • Osteoporosis: The Bone Thief - This publication explains what osteoporosis is and who is at risk. It also provides information on prevention and treatment options.

Connect with other organizations

Content last updated: July 16, 2012.

Return to top