Calcium Health Benefits
Adequate dietary intake of calcium is necessary for healthy bone development throughout childhood and adolescence. However, it does not become less important when the growing period is over. Females typically attain peak bone mass between age 25 and 35, while males, peak bone mass period lasts longer, between age 25 and 55. Adult females past age 35 and adult males past age 55 start to undergo a significant change in the composition of their bones known as demineralization. But, fortunately, the simple act of including enough calcium in the diet, combined with a healthy ratio of calcium to phosphorus, weight bearing physical exercise, not smoking, and limiting alcohol, will go a long way toward delaying the process. Besides calcium, appropriate amounts of vitamin D, K, magnesium, boron, and fluoride, along with regular exercise, are also important.
The composition of tooth enamel is 99% minerals, mainly calcium. Adequate dietary calcium is vital for maintaining this healthy structure of the teeth. Otherwise, the enamel starts to decay, leading to a whole host of serious oral hygiene problems. These include teeth becoming so loose they either fall out on their own, or their poor condition necessitates extraction. Other common conditions associated with tooth decay are gingivitis (gum inflammation) and periodontal disease. The symptoms are unpleasant, and treatment is costly.
Nerve and Muscle
Calcium, in its ion form Ca2+, is needed for muscles to contract and is especially important for the proper functioning of the muscles of the heart. This is accomplished by the positive calcium ions moving into the cardiac cells and binding to the muscle fibers to trigger a contraction.
Exercise works with calcium and other nutrients to promote more efficient circulation and improved muscle tone and heart health. But unless there is enough calcium present to begin with, sustained exercise becomes more difficult than it would be otherwise. Low levels of muscular calcium can cause early fatigue during exercise. The force of the muscular contractions is reduced and the relaxation time between contractions is shortened. Both conditions give rise to fatigue.
Calcium is also needed for the transmission of nerve impulses. Calcium activates the enzymes that trigger the release of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter. The release of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin is affected by the presence of calcium as well. There appears to be a calming effect on the nerves associated with calcium since higher concentrations of calcium reduce nerve irritability.
Without calcium, blood would not be able to clot normally. Clotting is a complex process that protects the body from losing too much blood after a serious injury. Without a sufficient level of calcium in the blood, the clotting process would be impaired, and hemorrhaging would take longer to stop.
Sometimes, however, clots form in places where they are not supposed to, blocking critical arteries in the heart or brain and putting the individual at serious risk for a heart attack or stroke. One preventative measure that can be taken is to administer citrates, which bind up, or chelate, calcium and thereby act as an anticoagulant.
Besides being a key factor in the rate of cardiac contractions, calcium influences every aspect of heart health, including blood pressure, blood flow, and cardiac rhythm. Therefore, calcium has been often used in the treatment of certain heart arrhythmias and congestive heart failure.
On the other hand, the latest set of research suggests that the role of calcium in heart health is not all black and white. High doses of calcium supplements (more than 1,000 mg. per day) have been linked to significantly increased cardiac-related mortality in both men and women.