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Low-Cost Ways to Protect Your Bones

Exercise, vitamin D and calcium, and proper testing help those at risk for osteoporosis -- and won't break the bank.
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WebMD Feature

If you have osteoporosis -- or are at high risk -- odds are you're not getting the care you need.

A 2004 Stanford study determined that more than half of all people with osteoporosis remain undiagnosed. What's more, even high-risk patients -- such as those who have already had a hip fracture - often don't receive calcium and vitamin D supplements or antiosteoporosis drugs. The 2004 Surgeon General's Report on Bone Health adds that most physicians don't even discuss osteoporosis with their patients after a fracture.

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Why is this the case? "I have no idea," says a baffled Michael Holick, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at Boston University Medical Center. "But the numbers are out there. Only one in four women between the ages of 45 and 75 will ever talk to a doctor about osteoporosis."

What's tragic about those numbers is that it's relatively easy and cost effective to take care of your bones -- but it can be devastating when you don't. Osteoporosis causes more than 1.5 million fractures every year. If you're a woman older than 50, you have 50-50 odds of having an osteoporosis-related fracture sometime in your remaining lifetime (don't stop reading if you're a man: your chance of a similar fracture is one in four).

Here are some things you can do to help protect your bones without breaking the bank -- especially if you're at high risk for osteoporosis, or nearing an age at which you will be.

  • Get Cs and Ds: Calcium and vitamin D, that is. A recent study of postmenopausal women on osteoporosis treatment shows that 52% had vitamin D insufficiency -- even though they'd been told by their doctors to take calcium and vitamin D.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D every day, but Holick says that might not be enough now.

"To prevent skin cancer, we're avoiding sun exposure, which is a major source of vitamin D," he says. "If you're doing that, you should be making sure to get 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily." Fortified dairy products, egg yolks, fish, and liver contain vitamin D, but you'll probably need a supplement to ensure you get enough.

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