Calcium is a vital mineral for our body to build strong teeth and bones. It is also needed for the proper functioning of the heart and other muscles. The neurotransmitters present in our brain require calcium to maintain the consistency in sending the neuro-signals to different parts of the body. A person with insufficient levels of calcium stands at a risk of developing disorders like osteoporosis, osteopenia, and hypocalcemia (calcium deficiency disease) to name a few.
Children with insufficient calcium levels have a greater risk of suffering from hypocalcemia and as a result, they do not grow to their full potential as adults. Hence, it is required to consume the recommended amount of calcium per day through daily diet and supplements.
A large number of people are at an increased risk of suffering from calcium deficiency as they age. The deficiency could be due to a variety of factors such as poor calcium intake over a long period of time, especially in childhood. It can also be caused due to medications that decrease calcium absorption. Apart from these, dietary intolerance, hormonal changes, and genetic factors also contribute to hypocalcemia.
Doctors recommend that starting in middle age, women must increase their calcium intake when compared with men. This is particularly important when women approach menopause, as there is a sharp decline in the estrogen hormone causing women’s bones to thin faster. Hypoparathyroidism can also cause calcium deficiency as a reduced level of parathyroid hormone fails to control calcium levels in the blood. Additional causes include malnutrition, malabsorption, pancreatitis, a septic shock, and renal failure among others.
The early stage of calcium deficiency may not exhibit any symptoms. However, as the deficiency progresses, symptoms such as confusion, memory loss, muscle spasms, depression, hallucinations, and weak or brittle bones might become common. Calcium deficiency also affects other parts of the body resulting in weaker nails, slower hair growth, and fragile skin.
As discussed above, calcium plays an important role in the muscle contractions and neurotransmitter release. Insufficient levels of calcium can bring seizures in otherwise healthy people.
Neonatal hypocalcemia is a condition that affects some infants soon after birth. Although, neonatal hypocalcemia occurs within the first day after birth, there are cases where it has occurred three days after birth or later. Symptoms of neonatal hypocalcemia include jitteriness, poor feeding, slowed breathing, and tachycardia.
Calcium deficiency is usually not difficult to treat as it involves adding more calcium to the diet. However, it is not recommended to take calcium supplements without consulting a doctor. Commonly prescribed medications include calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, and calcium phosphate. It is important to use only those supplements that are easily absorbed and don’t cause constipation.
Apart from this, it is important to include calcium-rich foods in your daily diet. These include fatty fishes like salmon and tuna, fortified orange juice, fortified milk, portobello mushrooms, and eggs. Many health experts recommend eating calcium-rich food rather than taking calcium supplements because calcium is easily absorbed in blood through naturally occurring food sources. In addition to this, sunlight also triggers our body to make vitamin D.
Refer health journals and manuals from health institutes to know the daily calcium requirements as it will help you avoid hypocalcemia.