It’s probably a given that most of us know the importance of making sure we get enough calcium on a daily basis. Calcium is the foundation, if you will, upon which our bodies are built—helping ensure strong bones and muscles, preventing bone loss, preventing tooth decay, and protecting against other health problems. But what exactly happens when we don’t get enough calcium? And how do we know if we’re getting sufficient calcium on a regular basis? The good news is that it’s fairly easy to figure out if you have a calcium deficiency. Let’s take a look.
Why You Need Calcium
As I mentioned when I called it the “foundation,” calcium is the main mineral in the human body, which is good because it has so many uses. Your body needs calcium not only to improve the strength of bones and teeth, but also to ensure normal cellular function. This means calcium plays a crucial role in keeping muscles contracting, hormones secreting, blood clotting, and nerve impulses transmitting. Basically, if you want your body to perform its most important functions, you need enough calcium.
The amount of calcium you need every day depends on a few factors, including age. Men need about 1,000 mg per day between the ages of 19 and 70, but that amount jumps to 1,200 mg a day for men who are age 71 and up. Women need at least 1,000 mg per day between the ages of 19 and 50, and that increases to 1,200 mg when they reach age 51.
Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency
It’s not always obvious you’re not getting enough calcium, especially since there aren’t always many symptoms early on. But some of the symptoms people may experience due to a calcium deficiency may include:
- Chest pains
- Tooth decay
- Dry skin
- Muscle weakness and cramps
- Tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes
- Changes to the voice
- Heart failure
If you experience any of the above symptoms on a regular basis, talk with your doctor about testing your calcium levels and exploring whether calcium deficiency might be part of the cause. Calcium deficiency might also lead to osteoporosis, the symptoms of which include backaches, poor posture, and brittle bones that break easily.
How to Treat and Prevent Calcium Deficiency
If you think you might be deficient in calcium—or think you may be at risk in the future—the first step is to talk with your doctor about that. It would also be a good idea to increase the amount of calcium you get every day. You can start by increasing your dairy intake, since milk, cheese, and yogurt all have calcium.
But there are also plenty of dairy-free ways to get more calcium in your diet. Leafy greens—including spinach, kale, Bok choy, and broccoli—are healthy sources of calcium. Canned salmon and sardines are also good ways to get more calcium. Tofu, sesame seeds, and sweet potatoes all have lots of calcium, too, so if you’re at risk of a calcium deficiency.
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