Tips to keep bones strong

October 20 is World Osteoporosis Day. Most people know that osteoporosis is a condition that affects many older women. Though osteoporosis isn't as common in men -- because most men have naturally larger and stronger bones -- they can get it, too.

Here are some tips to help women and men keep their bones strong:

  1. Eat right. A diet with enough calcium and vitamin D helps keep bones strong. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, adults over 50 need 1200 mg of calcium and 800-1000 IU of vitamin D per day. Low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, canned fish, dark green leafy vegetables, soybeans, eggs, cereal and fortified milk are good sources of calcium.
  2. Get plenty of exercise. Bone is living tissue that gets stronger when you put demands on it so you can dramatically improve your bone strength and density by exercising regularly. Highmark offers its Medicare Advantage product members access to the SilverSneakers Fitness program at no cost. To find a location, visit www.silversneakers.com. If you can't get to a fitness center, ask your doctor to advise you on what exercises would be good for you.
  3. Avoid smoking. Smoking is bad for bones as well as for the heart and lungs. Highmark Medicare Advantage members have access to a free smoking cessation program. Call the number on the back of your ID card for information.
  4. Talk to your doctor about tests and resources. If you're concerned that you may be at risk for osteoporosis, ask your doctor about a bone mineral density test, also called a BMD test. It is painless and the best way to determine your bone health plus it can also identify osteoporosis, determine your risk for fractures and measure your responses to treatment.

Preventing falls is important at any age, but especially for those who have osteoporosis because their bones are more fragile and break more easily. Here are a few tips to decrease your chances of falling at home:

  1. Remove all loose wires, cords and throw rugs from floors and make sure rugs are anchored and smooth.
  2. Install grab bars and nonskid tape in the tub or shower.
  3. Make sure halls, stairways and entrances are well-lit. Install a night light in your bathroom and turn lights on if you get up in the middle of the night.
  4. Install nonskid rubber mats near your kitchen sink and stove. Clean up spills immediately.
  5. Make sure stair treads, rails and rugs are secure.
  6. Wear sturdy, rubber-soled shoes.

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