Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies. We all know that we need calcium for strong bones and teeth. But do you know that calcium provides many other health benefits? It is needed for muscle contraction, blood vessel expansion and contraction, the secretion of hormones and enzymes, and a host of other biological functions. It is also used to transmit pulses throughout our entire nervous system. Once we know the importance of calcium and are aware of the sources you will be better able to manage your health
A lack of calcium can increase your risk of developing blood clots. This can lead to serious medical problems. A blood clot (thrombosis) is a partial or complete blockage in our arteries or veins which can lead to nerve, heart, or muscle problems. Adding to this problem is the fact that it is difficult to know if you have a blood clot. It is usually looked for when certain surgical procedures are done or there is evidence of a heart health problem.
Many women experience a lack of calcium. For this reason the importance of calcium can not be emphasized enough. The average women's intake of calcium is about half of what is needed. Combined with the fact that we expel calcium through our feces, urine and perspiration you can see why a shortage of this essential mineral will occur over time having a negative implication to our overall health.
Many people do not realize the importance of calcium. This is particularly true in the younger people in our population. They are encouraged to drink milk for strong bones and teeth but as we grow older that is usually replaced by soft drinks or alcoholic beverages. They hear of the need for calcium but associate it with a condition that affects older people. The truth is that adequate levels of calcium are needed through our complete life cycle.
Calcium plays an important role in our cardiovascular health. The average adult requires 700mg to 1000mg of calcium on a daily basis. If they have other problems such as osteoporosis that requirement may increase to 1500mg daily.
Osteoporosis is a crippling disease that affects older people, usually over 50. It is more common in women after menopause but also affects men. The disease is characterized by porous or fragile bones and can be very painful. More than 10 million people in the United States have osteoporosis with 80% of them being women. It results in over 1.5 million fractures a year. The most common types being hip, wrist, vertebrae and rib fractures.
When calcium intake is to low or absorption into the body is not adequate we start to use calcium that is stored in our body to complete and maintain normal biological functions. There are many risk factors for osteoporosis such as being female, thin, inactive or advancing age.
SOURCES OF CALCIUM
Calcium is found in some of the foods we eat, it is added to others or we get it from dietary supplements. It is also present in some medications that we take such as antacids. The main food sources of calcium for people in the United States are milk, cheese and yogurt. Non dairy sources of calcium are vegetables such as kale, cabbage and broccoli. Grains for the most part do not contain much calcium unless they are fortified. This is not to say they do not contribute to our calcium intake. While the levels are low these are foods that people eat on a regular basis.
Another important source of calcium is dietary supplements. There are basically two types of supplements available, they are carbonate and citrate. Both of these are absorbed into the body equally under normal conditions. It is known that people with reduced stomach acid will absorb calcium citrate more easily. You will absorb calcium carbonate more efficiently if it is taken with food where the body can absorb calcium citrate equally with or without food.
When taking calcium supplements it is good to know that absorption into the body is optimum at doses or 500 mg or less. If you take 1000mg per day it would be more efficient to take two doses of 500mg over the course of the day.
It should also be noted that some people will experience bloating, gas or constipation when taking calcium supplements. This can often be avoided by spreading out the dosage, taking it with meals or changing your particular brand of supplement.
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