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Health Check: Osteoporosis, the silent disease

(KATV Photo)

Oteoporosis is the most common type of bone disease, affecting 54 million Americans. It's often called the "silent disease" because many people have no symptoms until they have a bone fracture.

The body is constantly absorbing and replacing bone tissue, but with osteoporosis, new bone creation doesn't keep up with old bone removal. Bones become brittle and are more likely to break. Dr. Richard Wyatt explains who's most at risk.

"Women over the age of 65. Men over the age of 70. Especially in women that are post menopausal and not on estrogen therapy," says Dr. Wyatt .

The possibility of breaking a bone is a constant concern for Kathryn Kohlstedt.

"Here are times that doing laundry. you throw something over the back of the washing machine and lean over to get it and you break a rib or you lean across the pool and you break a rib," says Kathryn.

Bone loss and the chance of developing osteoporosis happens quicker in some women than others. Kathryn is only 52-years-old and was diagnosed with osteoporosis two years ago.

"Ultimately for her, if she fell and broke her hip, that's the worst case scenario for osteoporosis," says Dr. Wyatt.

Dr. Wyatt says you have an increased risk of dying within two years of breaking a hip, so that's why it's important to make lifestyle changes to prevent that in the future. He says the best treatment plan includes medication, a healthy diet that's rich in calcium and weight bearing exercise to help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones. Kathryn says she's doing all of this. She's trying to stay on top of a disease she'll be living with the rest of her life.

"I try to stay active and eat right and take my meds, do my vitamin D and calcium and magnesium for the absorption, but ya know, it's gonna happen. Just what I can do to stay on top of it. I don't want it to get any worse," Kathryn says.

Studies suggest that about one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis. There is a strong genetic component with osteoporosis. If one of your parents had osteoporosis, you may need to be screened.

Other risk factors include smoking and too much alcohol.

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