What is Calcium?
Chemically, calcium (Ca) is an alkaline earth metal with an atomic number 20. Calcium is also a mineral present in the human body, with 99% of calcium stored in the body, teeth, and bones, as well as the blood, muscles, and fluid between the cells. The presence of this abundant mineral is therefore vital to the proper functioning of the human body.
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Calcium is required for proper muscle contraction, including those that occur within the walls of blood vessels. Calcium is also used to assist in the secretion of both hormones and enzymes throughout the body. Through the use of neurotransmitters, calcium allows for the transmission of impulses between the brain and the entire nervous system. Calcium plays a role in maintaining a steady heartbeat, as well as the transportation of ions across cellular membranes. Taken together, several different bodily functions are dependent upon a sufficient amount of calcium in the body.
The amount of calcium required by a person primarily depends on age. Children, for example, require more calcium, as their skeletal structures are still growing, whereas older individuals, particularly women, often are advised to take calcium supplements, as their age causes them to be at a greater risk for osteoporosis. Those suffering from certain medical conditions may also be asked to increase their calcium intake.
Symptoms of calcium deficiency
By definition, hypocalcemia is the condition used to describe a calcium deficiency. A calcium deficiency often occurs in babies who are barely a few days old as a result of the often high levels of phosphate present in formula products that can reduce calcium levels in the blood. Some of the primary symptoms of hypocalcemia include irritability, muscle twitching, jitters, tremors, lethargy, and seizures. Aside from infants, a calcium deficiency can occur at any age.
Chronic calcium deficiency can result in rickets, osteoporosis, and osteopenia, as well as disruptions in the metabolic rate and normal function of other bodily processes. Taken together, some of the symptoms of chronic calcium deficiency can include chest pains, numbness in fingers and toes, muscle cramps, brittle nails, dry skin, and tooth decay.
Causes of calcium deficiency
There are a number of reasons as to why blood calcium levels decline. For example, a lack of vitamin D, which is required for the absorption of calcium, can arise when people stay indoors for extended periods of time.
Causes & Symptoms Of Calcium Deficiency – Dr. Berg
Hypoparathyroidism is another reason for calcium deficiency. This condition can occur post-surgery or due to an autoimmune disease or genetic reasons. Renal disease and liver problems may also result in vitamin D deficiency and consequent calcium deficiency.
Other conditions that may cause a calcium deficiency include pseudohypoparathyroidism, hypomagnesemia, hypermagnesemia, sclerotic metastases, and Fanconi syndrome. Any illness affecting the thyroid and parathyroid glands will also result in a general mineral deficiency that will therefore include calcium.
Treating a calcium deficiency
The first way to avoid calcium deficiency is to ensure that one’s diet contains an adequate quantity of the mineral. Foods rich in calcium include dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, avocado, okra, collards, and kale are also rich in calcium.
Beans like white beans, soybeans, and flat beans are also a good way to increase calcium intake through the diet. Certain fish including sardines, salmon, perch, and rainbow trout are also good sources of calcium.
If an individual's diet does not provide an adequate amount of calcium, it may be a good idea to incorporate calcium supplements into the diet. These supplements are available in various combinations over the counter or may be prescribed by the doctor.
It is crucial that a calcium supplementation regimen meets the daily recommended dosage and does not exceed it. An excessive amount of calcium can lead to constipation and the development of kidney stones. The presence of caffeine, alcohol, and extra sodium in the body will also decrease the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Daily recommended calcium intake
Age is the main factor in determining an individual's daily recommended intake of calcium. Babies up to 6 months of age should get about 1000 mg of calcium per day, whereas infants between the ages of 7 and 12 months will require a daily intake of 1500 mg.
Children between the ages of 1 and 8 years are advised to consume 2500 mg, whereas children between 9 to 18 years should consume 3000 mg of calcium daily. For adults between the ages of 19 to 50 years, the daily recommended calcium intake is 2500 mg. However, by the age of 51 and beyond, 2000 mg of calcium should be consumed daily.
There may be a different requirement for special conditions. For example, pregnant women should have at least 2500 mg daily, no matter how old they are. A pregnant teenager, who may have to breastfeed later, will require 3000 mg of calcium daily.
Other medical conditions such as osteoporosis may benefit from calcium supplementation, in addition to vitamin D, to ensure that the body absorbs the calcium from the supplements.