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Build Up Your Bones

Follow these tips to keep your skeleton at its sturdiest and prevent osteoporosis.

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    • Assess Your Risk

      To help prevent osteoporosis, it's important to keep your bones healthy and strong. An easy way to determine whether you're at risk for the disease: take the new quick and easy test developed by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (iofbonehealth.org). It takes minutes to answer the series of questions, and you'll get an analysis of your bone health based on your answers.

      Read on for easy ways to keep your bones healthy.

    • Bone Appetit

      The next time you grocery shop, fill the fridge with beverages that double as bone-builders, such as milk or calcium-fortified orange juice. And buy other foods high in calcium such as broccoli, almonds, dried figs, and spinach. Under 50 years old? Try to consume about 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Over 50? Consume about 1,200 mg.

    • Talk to Your Doc

      During your next visit, ask your doctor if it's time for a baseline DXA scan. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, or DXA, measures bone mineral density and can detect early signs of osteoporosis. Learn more about the test, and who should get it, at the Foundation for Osteoporosis Research and Education Web site (fore.org).

    • Can the Colas

      Colas -- even the diet ones -- contain acids that can cut down on your bones' ability to absorb calcium. Save them for an occasional treat.

    • Talk to Your Family

      Osteoporosis screenings have only been around for a few decades. As a result, many people don't know if they have a family history of the disease. So dig out the family photos and ask some key questions of your relatives. "Find out if anyone in your family had fractures as an adult or a dowager's hump -- these are both telling signs of osteoporosis, even if the person wasn't treated for it," says Felicia Cosman, clinical director of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Some exceptions: Breaks to the fingers and toes are too minor to attribute to osteoporosis, and fractures to the skull or face usually indicated real trauma. All other fractures -- especially to the hips, wrists, and spine -- are almost always due in part to osteoporosis.

    • Break Out the Tennies

      Regular exercise that works your entire frame is essential. Leave the house for even just a half-hour of walking at a moderate pace. Better yet, go for a run, play a few games of tennis, or take some aerobics classes. Any weight-bearing exercise -- in which your bones and muscles work against gravity -- helps build strong bones, says Holly Thacker, director of the Women's Health Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

    • Visit the Vitamin Aisle

      Calcium is important, but vitamin D is very important. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and it's hard to get enough of it through diet alone. Thacker recommends at least 1,000 international units (IU) a day, via a supplement taken at mealtimes. "Vitamin D is often ignored. I see women in my practice every day who take calcium daily, yet test low for it," she says.

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