Calcium is a soft grey alkaline earth metal and chemical element that is represented by the symbol Ca and the atomic number 20. It is the fifth most abundant element by mass in the Earth’s crust. Calcium is essential for living organisms and is a major material for the mineralization of bones, teeth, and shells. It is the most abundant metal by mass in many animals.
Calcium is an essential mineral in the human body to keep the bones, teeth, heart, nerves, and blood-clotting systems healthy. It is used for treating and preventing low calcium levels and bone conditions like osteoporosis, rickets, and osteomalacia. Calcium can also be used to calm the symptoms of PMS, leg cramps during pregnancy, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and to reduce the risk of colon and rectal cancers.
Calcium is also used in some cases for treating complications after intestinal bypass surgery, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Lyme disease, to reduce high fluoride levels in children, and to reduce high lead levels. Calcium carbonate is often used as an antacid for heartburn, and both calcium carbonate and calcium acetate are used for reducing phosphate levels in people with kidney disease.
Having a healthy diet that contains calcium-rich foods is important for your overall health. Foods that are rich in calcium include:
- Dairy products: milk, cheese, and yoghurt
- Leafy, green vegetables
- Whole wheat grain products (check product labels)
- Citrus juices
- Kale and broccoli
While calcium can interact with other prescription medications, the effects can be minimized by taking calcium at a different time. (See “Medicine interactions with Calcium supplements” section)
How does it work?
Over 99% of the calcium in the human body is contained in the bones and teeth. It can also be found in the blood, muscles, and other tissues. Calcium contained in the bones acts as a reserve that can be released into the body when it is needed. The concentration of calcium content tends to decline in the body as we age because it is released over the years through sweat, skin cells, and waste. Absorption of calcium declines more in women as a result of reduced oestrogen levels.
As bones break down and rebuild, extra calcium is needed for this process. Taking extra calcium through supplements and calcium rich foods will help the bones to rebuild properly and stay strong.