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Obesity Likely Contributing To Older, Minority Women's Increased Arthritis Risk

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Older minority women are more likely than their white counterparts to develop osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, likely because of risk factors such as obesity, according to a study published last month in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, Reuters Health reports.

For the study, researcher Nicole Wright of the University of Arizona and colleagues studied 146,494 women participating in the Women's Health Initiative -- an ongoing study of healthy postmenopausal women. Forty-four percent of the women had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Researchers found that the risk for developing osteoarthritis was slightly higher for American Indian and black women compared with white women. Asian women had the lowest risk. Women in their 70s had the highest risk of osteoarthritis, while younger women had less risk. Other risk factors for osteoarthritis include level of activity, education, income and weight, Reuters Health reports.

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Among women in their 50s, 39.3% of Hispanic women had osteoarthritis, compared with 36.4% of American Indians, 33.8% of blacks, 25.8% of Asians and 22.6% of whites. Risk factors associated with the condition were more common among blacks, American Indians and Hispanics. For example, 57.9% of blacks were obese, compared with 51% of American Indians, 41.9% of Hispanics and 32.9% of whites. Researchers speculate that excess weight increases the physical stress on the joints and bone mineral density, which might increase stiffness in bones and contribute to the weakening of cartilage.

According to the study, the findings offer "strong evidence that body weight and [body mass index] may be large contributing factor[s] to the number and severity of osteoarthritis symptoms, further elaborating the importance of postmenopausal women" -- especially those who are black, Hispanic and American Indian -- to maintain a healthy weight (Reuters Health, 10/17).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.