Are You Taking Enough Calcium?

Dr Harold Gunatillake
Health Writer

Calcium is required for maintaining good bone health, dental care, prevent colon cancer, and even reduce obesity. It is a mineral we need from the womb to the tomb, and kids need extra doses of calcium for growth and development. As we grow older too, we need calcium as our bones become fragile, porous and weak (osteoporosis). Most of the fancy diets we consume may not have sufficient calcium to maintain our daily requirements.

Those who do not take dairy products for fear of increasing cholesterol levels in their blood may be foolish enough not to take. Women too need extra calcium, as fractures of bones due to osteoporosis are far more common among ageing women. Thus, it is extremely important to consume adequatecalcium along with vitamins including vitamin D, magnesium, during adolescent years, and women may need hormone replacement during pre and post-menopausal stages.

Two precent of our body weight is composed of calcium, mainly on the dense concentration in our bones. It is found as deposits in the bones and teeth in great volumes. Traces of calcium are found in our blood which can be assesed from a blood sample. Calcium is required to prevent life threatening bleeding (haemorrhages).

Calcium is easily available in dairy milk, cheese, yoghurt and certain leafyvegetables, and as such it is not difficult to maintain your calcium levels in your blood and body. Remember lack of calcium can affect your brain cells and nerve fibres. Insufficient calcium in your blood stream can cause a condition called, 'Tetany'. Calcium is found in adequate amounts in nuts, seeds, tinned salmon, and pulses, and vegetables like broccoli, spinach, orange juice, cereals, oysters, soy, almonds, and green peas, among others.

Pizzas with plenty of sardine, oysters, prawns with vegetables as toppings, can be packed with calcium, in addition to the chees added. (Flatbread crust contains 113 mg. calcium)

When your muscles ache and twitch, calcium deficiency will come to your mind, and if you did not, now you know it. How many ageing people, including men and women suffer from muscle aches, but never think it could be due to calcium deficiency. Night cramps suddenly appearing when you adjust your blanket with your toes may be due to calcium deficiency.

Occasionally palpitations (rapid noisy heart beats- regular or irregular), heard most in the night time in bed may be due to calcium deficiency, in addition to many other diagnostic conditions. Occasionally, high blood pressure may come due to calcium deficiency. Even, joint pains as in arthritis may be caused from calcium deficiency.

Children suffer from rickets, quite rare today, due to weak bones and they become flexible due to insufficient calcium in the weight bearing bones. It is common in bowed legs, sunken chest and beaded ribs.

So, there are many benefits of consuming adequate amounts of calcium containing foods daily, available quite freely. Extra calcium intake being a mineral helps healthy bones, gums and teeth, as mentioned earlier. Women should take calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis in their later life.

Exercise keeps your bones healthy and strong, by absorbing and retaining extra amounts of calcium in the bones. Increased density due to extra calcium deposits in bones can be seen on plain X rays. Insufficient calcium deposits reveal more transparent and less dense appearance of the bones.

Calcium also gives strength to the bones, and ensures the right shape to the body apart from alleviating the risks of back pain. In short, calcium keeps our bones in good shape, good posture and stature.

Prevent Obesity
Calcium when consumed adequately seems to maintain an optimum body weight in both sexes. Deficiency in calcium levels in your blood tends to release a hormone called parathyroid hormone (Para-thyroid glands, four in number is situated at the four corners of the thyroid gland in the neck), which in turn mobilises the calcium from your bones to maintain adequate levels in your blood stream. This is a compensatory mechanism in the body.

Protects Heart Muscles
For adequate contractions and relaxation of the heart muscle needs sufficient amounts of calcium. Calcium is needed for the nerves that supply the arteries to maintain the proper pressure in your arteries. In situations where inadequate calcium levels are detected the body releases a hormone called calcitrol which helps to contract the muscles of the arteries, thereby increasing the blood pressure. Cardiac muscles need calcium within the muscles (intra-cellular) and also outside the muscles extra-cellular), for proper contraction and relaxation. Doctor prescribe calcium antagonists to reduce you high blood pressure by relaxing your muscles in the arteries and heart.

Prevent Colon Cancer
Adequate level of calcium in your body helps to reduce the incidence of colon cancer, and polyps that may lead to cancer (pre-cancerous). Calcium supplementation reduces the risk of adenomas, also non-malignant tumours in the colon.The excess calcium that's left in your intestines after your body absorbs what it needs, the rest passes through the colon, and it is believed that this unabsorbed calcium binds with cancer promoters. so they're excreted together from the body.

Even though Calcium is one of the most important minerals, people tend to neglect it the most. Most of the children fuss about having milk and eventually with age stop drinking milk altogether. It should be widely known that such ignorance of calcium mineral can result in many serious diseases in long run.

Calcium is a vital element in any healthy human diet. If milk and dairy products are not agreeable, try to combine these ingredients with other cereals and make recipes that involve milk and dairy products.

It may help to take a calcium supplement in case the intake is inadequate.

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