Calcium: Just the FAQs
Everyone knows you need calcium for good bone health. But the benefits of calcium extend beyond strong bones. Your heart, muscles, and nerves also relying on calcium to function optimally. Some studies even suggest that calcium, in conjunction with vitamin D, protect the body against high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer.
How Much Calcium Do You Need?
The recommended dietary allowance of calcium for men up to the age of seventy is 1000 mg per day. For women, that amount is recommended until the age of fifty. For men seventy-one and older, and women fifty-one and older, calcium requirements jump, and 1200 mg per day is required.
What Are the Best Ways to Get Calcium?
The best way to get calcium is through your diet. Dairy products and dark leafy greens are excellent sources of this essential nutrient. But calcium is not enough by itself; in order to metabolize the calcium, you need vitamin D. Vitamin D can be found in egg yolks, canned salmon that contains bones, and from exposure to the sun. As awareness grows about the dangers of excessive sun exposure, vitamin D deficiencies are becoming more common.
Who Is at Risk for Calcium Deficiency?
Depending on your diet, you may have trouble getting enough calcium in your diet. Speak to your doctor about calcium supplementation if you:
- Have a high protein or high sodium diet. Excessive amounts of protein or sodium prevent your body from absorbing calcium.
- Follow a vegan diet, which excludes many high-calcium foods
- Are lactose intolerant, or have some other reason to limit your dairy intake
Certain medications and health conditions also prevent proper absorption of calcium. You may require calcium supplementation if you:
- Have osteoporosis
- Have inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, or other gastrointestinal disorders that prevent calcium absorption
- Take corticosteroids long-term
Don’t Get Too Much of a Good Thing
If you do need calcium supplements, you need to be careful to take the right amount. Too much calcium has been associated with heart disease and, in man, with prostate cancer. (Yes, as we mentioned, too little calcium is also bad for the heart. Balance is important!)
Men and women under the age of fifty should not get more than 2000 mg of calcium per day. Over the age of fifty, that number drops to 2000 mg per day.
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