Take care of your bones — you'll need them

Osteoporosis can develop gradually and you might not be aware you have it.

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The bone-thinning disease osteoporosis can gradually take away a person's quality of life and most are not even be aware of its threat. Statistics cited at about.com said millions of Americans, 80 percent of them women, have some form of the disease.

Dr. Ryan Luoma, family practitioner with Providence St. Mary Medical Physicians Group, said that osteoporosis is low bone mass that causes changes in the architecture of the bones and increased weakness. And it's prevalent.

According to Dr. Luoma, he's seen numbers that indicate more than 10 million Americans have the disease.

"It's primarily post-menopausal women, but men are susceptible too. Risk factors include inactivity, smoking, drinking and certain medications including steroids and Heperin."

It's a disease that can take you by surprise, Dr. Luoma said. You may not even know you have osteoporosis until you fall and have to deal with an injury.

A more preventative stance would be to find out about it by getting tested. Dr. Luoma said a bone density test, such as a Dexa Scan, is a good way to know where you stand with osteoporosis. An initial test will form a baseline and following tests will show you how well your improvement program is working.

According to Dr. Luoma, peak bone mass is at about age 30. "Then it's all downhill from there," he said. But you can intervene. "You can limit that bone loss with good dietary habits and weight bearing exercise, like walking or jogging, not swimming."

"There's medication you can take, once a day, once a week or even a shot once a year. In addition to a good diet, exercise and supplementation," Dr. Luoma said.

Recommended daily amounts of calcium for pre-menopausal women is from 1000-1200 milligrams. For those older than 55, the amount bumps up to 1500 milligrams. Since vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption, he suggested at least 800 international units. There are a lot of different calcium formulations, he said, and suggested a balance with other nutrients such as vitamin D, magnesium and phosphorous.

Dr. Luoma encouraged asking questions when you go see the doctor. "It's good to take charge of your health care," he said. There are things you can do to decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis, such as improving your diet and lifestyle. After checking with your doctor, get started with some weight bearing exercises. Walking is a great way to begin - it's simple and inexpensive.

Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at karleneponti@wwub.com.

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