What is Calcium?
Calcium is a mineral that helps with strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps maintain muscle function and heart rhythm and supports the nervous system.
Whether you’re already taking a calcium supplement, or just starting, you’ll love the way it keeps your bones and heart in good shape. Learn more about the many sources of calcium, how much calcium you should take every day, and how much calcium is too much.
Calcium Health Benefits
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body. It’s a major component of your bones. That’s because your body needs calcium to grow, repair, and maintain bone tissue. Getting enough calcium for healthy bones and teeth is easy when you consider calcium supplements. Calcium supplements are standard for treating and preventing osteoporosis — weak and easily broken bones — and their precursor, osteopenia.
Calcium is an essential mineral that’s vital for the normal development and also helps in maintaining a regular heartbeat, nerve function, muscle contraction, and blood clotting. It also helps to prevent premenopausal osteoporosis, a disease in which weak and brittle bones develop and can lead to fractures and pain in the back, hips, and wrist.
Calcium allows for the transmission of signals through nerve cells, muscle contraction and the conduction of electrical impulses. Unlike most vitamins that are water-soluble, calcium is stored in the body’s tissues. It also helps to keep blood pressure down, which is important because high blood pressure can lead to coronary artery disease. In addition to strengthening bones, it may be beneficial in preventing osteoporosis and reducing symptoms associated with PMS and menopause such as hot flashes, headaches, mood swings, and fatigue.
The calcium dosage you need depends on your life stage and health condition but follow the recommended daily allowance guidelines to avoid needing a blood test to check your doctor’s prescribed level.
|0-6 months||200 mg/day|
|7-12 months||260 mg/day|
|1-3 years||700 mg/day|
|4-8 years||1,000 mg/day|
|9-18 years||1,300 mg/day|
|19-50 years||1,000 mg/day|
|51- 70 years||1,200 mg/day (women) 1,000 mg/day (men)|
|70+ years||1,200 mg/day|
Calcium supplements come in many forms, including tablets and capsules, chewable or effervescent tablets that you absorb through your mouth, and powders or gels that you swallow with water or mix into food or juice. As with any supplement, it’s important to use calcium wisely.
A balanced diet is key to bone health. As you age, your body requires more calcium and other nutrients to build new bone tissue. Eventually, this slows down and then stops entirely: that’s the beginning of osteoporosis. Eating a healthy diet with enough calcium can help stave off this condition for years to come.
Natural Calcium Sources
Good sources of calcium include:
- Broccoli, kale, and Chinese cabbage
- Fortified cereals, juices, soy products, and other foods
The body usually gets enough calcium from foods such as milk, cheese, and other dairy products, canned fish with soft bones, and fortified foods like cereals. When you need to make up for a calcium deficiency, choose a supplement that includes vitamin D. It helps your body absorb calcium.
Who Should Consider Calcium Supplements?
Do you have thin, weak bones? Tired or achy muscles or joints? You probably need more calcium in your diet. Unfortunately, most people don’t get enough of this essential mineral to make strong bones. If you fall into one of these categories, talk with your doctor about whether a calcium supplement might be right for you.
Calcium supplements can be a good choice if you don’t eat dairy products or if you have trouble absorbing calcium from your digestive system. Calcium supplements are less absorbable than calcium in food, which is why they may not help with preventing osteoporosis.
In general, most people get enough calcium in their diet. Milk and dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and some types of breakfast cereals are great sources of this mineral. For example, a cup of milk or yogurt contains about 300 mg of calcium. So, a glass or two of milk or a couple of servings of yogurt would give you about half your daily requirement for calcium.
Keeping your calcium levels in a healthy range is important for your health. For example, higher calcium intakes have been associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Your doctor may recommend calcium supplements if you do not consume enough foods rich in calcium, or you have low levels of vitamin D or there is a concern that you are developing osteoporosis.
Types Of Calcium Supplements
Forms of calcium include:
- Calcium carbonate: The best-known are over-the-counter antacid products that contain calcium carbonate. This OTC source of calcium is inexpensive and amounts to about 200 mg or more per pill or chew. Calcium carbonate should be taken with meals.
- Calcium citrate: Calcium citrate is the most popular form of calcium supplements because it contains a citric acid salt instead of a carbonate salt. Citrates are taken before meals to increase calcium absorption from the food. Citrates are the preferred form of calcium supplement for people over age 50.
- Additional forms, such as calcium gluconate and calcium lactate, have less calcium than carbonate or citrate. They do not offer any advantages when compared with the most common form of calcium supplements.
Side effects: Side effects are sometimes caused by taking a calcium supplement instead of a balanced diet. Always talk to your doctor before beginning a calcium supplement program and monitor your health. Be sure to learn about the safety and benefits of calcium before you begin any program.
Interactions: While most people need to take calcium supplements, ask your doctor before you begin. High doses can be dangerous. If you’re an older adult with a history of kidney stones, it may be advised not to take them at all. If you’re taking medications such as prednisone or phenytoin, don’t take calcium without talking to your doctor first. Talk to your doctor about how much calcium is right for you.
Risks: If you have kidney disease, heart problems, sarcoidosis, or bone tumors. It is important to have adequate calcium in your diet. While you should never take too much, these are some common risk factors to consider when taking calcium supplements.
Overdose: Be smart. Check your supplements to ensure you’re getting the right amount of calcium. High levels of calcium in your blood can cause nausea, dry mouth, belly pain, an irregular heartbeat, confusion, and even death. It is important to be aware that too much calcium can lead to negative health effects.
You might consider calcium supplements to promote strong bones. However, there’s no need to use products identified as “coral calcium” or that make claims your body needs calcium from the ocean. Claims made that coral calcium is better than regular calcium are unproven and may contain dangerous amounts of lead. Seek advice from your health care professional when choosing a calcium product.
When choosing a calcium supplement:
When picking out a calcium supplement, look for products with the words “purified” or “USP” on the label. It is important to avoid products made from oyster shell, bone meal, and dolomite because they are not always pure.
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