Understanding Osteoporosis


The month of May is observed as National Osteoporosis Month, but how much information do we have on the illness?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much or makes too little bone or both. Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle to the extent that a simple fall, bending over or coughing can cause a fracture that will occur in the hip, wrist or spine. Osteoporosis means ‘porus bone’ and bone is living tissue that is constantly broken down and replaced. The illness will occur when the creation of a new bone doesn’t keep up with the removal of old bone.

Osteoporosis is a common illness; the symptoms include:

  • Back pain caused by fractured or collapsed vertebra.
  • Loss of height
  • A stooped posture
  • A bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected.

Some risks associated with the disease are out of the individual’s control and include:

  • Your gender. Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
  • Age. The older you get, the greater the risk.
  • Race. You’re at greater risk if you’re of Asian descent or white.
  • Family History. Having a parent or sibling with the illness puts you at a greater risk.
  • Body Frame Size. Men and women with small body frames have a higher risk because there is less bone mass as they age.

Dr. Shantell Neely- James General Practitioner/ Gynecologist at West Trade medical in Portmore, St. Catherine identified post-menopausal women in Jamaica to be at greater risk for osteoporosis. The West Indian Med. j. vol.62 no.7 Mona Sept. 2013 also did a survey to see if black Jamaican postmenopausal women who had hysterectomy were at increased risk of osteoporosis. The study revealed the findings that hysterectomy was not found to be a significant risk factor for osteoporosis. It found that osteoporosis risk among menopausal women in Jamaica appears to be due to other risk factors which probably existed prior to the operation.


The most serious complications of osteoporosis occur in the spine or hip. Hip fractures often come about from a fall and can result in disability and even an increased risk of death within the first year of injury.

A healthy bone when viewed under a microscope looks like a honey comb. When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honey comb are much larger than in healthy bones, hence it has become increasingly important for us to follow the necessary precautions to care for our bones. Good nutrition and regular exercise are essential for keeping your bones healthy throughout your life.

Here’s what you can do to help.

Combine strength training exercises with weight -bearing and balance exercises. Strength training helps to strengthen muscles and bones in the arms and upper spine. Weight- bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, running, stair climbing and skipping affects bones in the legs, and lower spine. Balance exercises such as tai chi can reduce your risk of falling especially as you get older.

Men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. The amount will increase to 1,200 milligrams when a woman turns 50 and a man turns 70.

Ensure optimal calcium intake, good sources of calcium include:

  • Low- fat dairy products
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Canned sardines or salmon with bones
  • Soy products, such as tofu
  • Calcium- fortified cereals and orange juice

Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because persons are not able to feel bones weakening. So, speak to your doctor if you develop back ache or sudden severe back pain without obvious injury. A bone density test will be administered, examining segments of your bone through X-rays to detect osteoporosis.

Your health…is your responsibility!


Juliane Robinson

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