Osteoporosis—abnormal thinning of our bones as we age—is fairly common and can be serious, according to Dr. Ingrid Liu of Oak Park's WellcomeMD medical practice at 1100 Lake Street. But for most women, there's little need for concern.
"And that's a really good reason for a careful, thorough annual physical exam," Dr. Liu says. "So you know you don't have to worry about it."
Bone thinning can be a problem for aging men, but is far more often a problem for women. It can mean more frequent fractures, and resulting disability.
Surprisingly, an American Journal of Public Health survey found that doctors miss cases of osteoporosis, most of the time. Though as many as a third of all postmenopausalwomen have osteoporosis, perhaps as few as two percent are diagnosed and treated! Early intervention is important.
"Doctors these days can be too busy to address this disease, which may not present any symptoms until it has progressed beyond the most effective treatments," Dr. Liu said. "The latest medical advances have given us new treatment options for osteoporosis."
Dr. Liu's WellcomeMD members have a thorough, 2.5-hour annual physical and meet with the doctor for a detailed follow-through. If there's an indication that it's needed, patients can be scheduled for a "DEXA scan" to check hip and spine density. It's an easy, fast and non-invasive test.
For about the cost of your cable TV service, WellcomeMD offers many services not found in traditional medical practices. And it has same-day appointments, a "waitless" waiting room, and home visits when necessary—patients even have Dr. Liu's cell-phone number and email address. Appointments with the doctor are not rushed.
The key to dealing with the possibility of osteoporosis is to have those check-ups, says Dr. Liu, and to plan to keep your bones healthy, beginning at the earliest possible age.
"That means a good diet with more calcium, and the right exercise: walking, climbing stairs, lifting weights. But begin carefully, and get some expert help designing it, if you can," Dr. Liu says. By age 65, all women should be tested for osteoporosis.
At WellcomeMD, membership and the annual physical exam include testing and consultation with a nutritionist and a professional physical trainer. The trainer gives detailed advice on what exercises to include, and a safe level at which to begin them. Your doctor can also give advice on whether one of several drug treatments might be effective in preserving your bone density -- if they are needed at all.