The health number you may be missing: Why knowing your calcium level is crucial

You probably know many of your important health numbers such as weight, cholesterol and blood pressure. But you may want to add one more: calcium level. Calcium is a mineral that's important in regulating bone formation, release of hormones, muscle contraction, as well as nerve and brain function.

But a calcium level that is too high could be a sign of something serious. Experts say high calcium could cause major problems and you'd never know.

Kristie Rowe leads an active life, visiting family and participating in all kinds of activities. But in the last few years, she noticed a big change.

"One day I'd be fine with energy, and the next day I'd be totally spent," Rowe said.

Besides energy, she started losing her hair. Rowe was aware she had high calcium levels, but she didn't make the connection between calcium as a potential cause for those other health issues.

She said, "It got to the point when I asked my physician, 'So when do I need to have this addressed?' And, his answer was, 'You're there.'"

Doctors discovered a tumor on one of Kristie's four parathyroid glands.

Dr. Jim Norman, from the Norman Parathyroid Center, explained: "High calcium levels are more deadly and cause more health problems than high cholesterol. So everybody really should know what their calcium level is."

The condition is also known as hyperparathyroidism. The hormone produced by the tumor makes people feel tired and can cause osteoporosis, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, kidney stones and kidney failure.

"A little over 75 percent are women," Norman said. "And, interestingly, it is women in the ages around menopause so it's primarily between the ages of 45 and 60 is when most women get this."

The good news is that after a 20-minute procedure, the tumor was gone.

"Came in for surgery that morning and by 11 a.m., I was on the road heading home," said Rowe.

"Sometimes within a day or two, sometimes a week or two, but life changes dramatically," Norman stated.

While Rowe's tumor was the size of a golf ball, she only has a faint scar.

"The next day that I started realizing some bone issues that I kind of chalked up to old age, I wasn't having anymore. So, it really was such a pleasant relief," Rowe said.

"There's no stitches to take out, they peel off the Band-Aid and they go out about their life expecting great things to happen," Norman said.

Norman suggests that people always get a copy of their blood tests and look closely at the calcium levels. See if it's within the normal range, and if not, ask your physician if it's a concern.
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