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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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    You can also do a simple at-home test of your own bone health using an online tool called FRAX, developed by the World Health Organization to evaluate fracture risk. Using information including your age, weight, height, and a few questions about your health history (like smoking and steroid use), FRAX predicts risk of having a fracture within the next 10 years.

    If you already have osteoporosis, insurers generally cover prescribed medications such as bisphosphonates, although the monthly co-payments for a drug you will take for years can add up.

    If these payments become a serious burden, or if you're uninsured, don't risk your bone health by dropping your medications -- explore these options:

    • NeedyMeds (www.needymeds.com) is one of the best sources of information on the many drug assistance programs offered by states, localities, and pharmaceutical manufacturers themselves.
    • AARP Bulletin online has a state-by-state, plan-by-plan guide to pharmacy assistance programs at http://www.aarp.org/bulletin/prescription/Articles/statebystate.html.
    • Seniors Inc. (http://www.seniorsinc.org/medication.htm, or (303) 300-6945) and the Medicine Program (www.themedicineprogram.com) are both free services that help people enroll in medication assistance programs.
    • Partnership for Prescription Assistance (www.pparx.org), a web site run by pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and patient advocacy groups that offers access to public and private patient assistance programs, including more than 150 programs offered by pharmaceutical companies.

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    Reviewed on January 13, 2011

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