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You have more calcium than any other mineral in your body, and 99 percent of it is stored in your bones and teeth. This means that getting enough calcium is critical for maintaining strong bones and teeth, especially as you get older. Calcium is also necessary for the proper functioning of your nerves, heart, and muscles.
The current RDA for women and men ranges from 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg per day, depending on age. By adhering to these guidelines, you will be on your way to maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and avoiding osteoporosis. But, if you don't drink milk or consume dairy products, are you at risk of calcium deficiency?
A true calcium deficiency, or hypocalcemia, is usually unrelated to diet. Instead, calcium levels in the blood become too low as a result of certain medications and medical conditions.
Dietary calcium deficiency, or not getting enough calcium from food and beverages, is extremely rare. Most people can get enough calcium by eating a variety of calcium-rich foods.
Calcium deficiency is more common, which occurs when a person's dietary calcium intake is lower than recommended. Over time, this can lead to health issues such as osteoporosis.
Some medications can cause hypocalcemia by depleting calcium stores or making calcium absorption more difficult. Diuretics are a type of medication that increases the amount of calcium passed out of the body through urine. Certain antibiotics and anticonvulsant medications can also reduce calcium stores.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which are used to treat stomach acid, do not cause hypocalcemia, but they may reduce calcium absorption. If you're taking a PPI and aren't getting enough calcium from food, you might need to take a calcium citrate supplement like Citracal, which doesn't require stomach acid to be absorbed.
Blood calcium levels can be affected by problems with the parathyroid glands, which are located on the thyroid in the neck. These four glands produce parathyroid hormone (PTH), which assists your body in maintaining an appropriate calcium and phosphorus balance in the blood.
Calcium levels can fall if you don't produce enough PTH, which can be caused by an injury to the gland, a genetic condition, or an endocrine disorder. Kidney dysfunction can also lower calcium levels because excess calcium is excreted in the urine, affecting the kidneys' ability to activate vitamin D.
The following four groups are the most vulnerable to calcium deficiency:
Women produce less estrogen during and after menopause, which reduces calcium absorption and increases bone resorption (the breakdown of old bone). This can result in osteoporosis. As you approach menopause, consult your doctor about whether you should increase your intake of calcium-rich foods. The RDA for adult women up to the age of 50 is 1,000 mg, then 1,200 mg.
Amenorrhea is a condition in which menstrual periods cease (or never begin) as a result of low body weight, a hormonal imbalance, stress, or other factors. Women who do not have their periods have lower circulating estrogen levels, which can disrupt calcium balance.
Dairy is the most common source of calcium in most diets, so if you avoid it, you may be deficient in the mineral. Consuming plenty of non-dairy calcium sources, such as collard greens and broccoli, may help to compensate.
Calcium and vitamin D have an important relationship. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption in the gut. As a result, if you are vitamin D deficient, you will not absorb calcium efficiently.
Fortunately, vitamin D is found in a variety of foods, including fatty fish and fortified foods such as cereal, milk, and some types of orange juice. Your body also produces vitamin D after being exposed to sunlight, so getting some every day is important.
Hypercalcemia is the medical term for having too much calcium. You can get too much calcium from supplements, but certain health problems can also cause your body to store too much calcium. Overactive parathyroid glands, certain cancers, immobility, medications, and hereditary factors are among the issues. Nausea, vomiting, confusion, and fatigue are symptoms of an excess of calcium. It can also lead to arrhythmia, kidney problems, weakened bones, or even severe nervous system issues such as dementia and coma.