Calcium is a mineral important for strong bones and teeth, healthy blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function. It is the most abundant mineral (99%) to maintain high bone density, which is important in lowering risks of osteoporosis; a bone disease characterised by weak and brittle bones. A knock or fall may cause bone fractures, and common fracture sites are spine, hip, wrist and forearm.
As we age, more bone is broken down than it is replaced hence the risk of osteoporosis is higher for elderly individuals. What is concerning is that a bone fracture may lead to premature death for the elderly! Another group of individuals with a higher risk of osteoporosis is women past menopause stage due to the decreased levels of protective hormone, estrogen. The lack of estrogen results in bone cells breaking down faster than its formation. What's more, a defiency in calcium may trigger the body to transfer calcium from the bones to compensate for the shortfall but at the expense of the bone mineral density. This also increases the risk of osteoporosis. Therefore it is important to ensure an adequate amount of calcium.
Common food sources include dairy foods (e.g. milk, yoghurt and cheese), sardines with bones, nuts and legumes, leafy green vegetables (e.g. spinach) and calcium-fortified products (e.g. high calcium soy milk, breakfast cereal). For optimal calcium absorption, take vitamin D and magnesium as well because all these nutrients work better together.
Obtaining adequate amounts of calcium can be challenging, particularly for vegans, ovo-vegetarians (vegetarians who can eat eggs but not dairy), and individuals who are lactose intolerant. Prolonged period of insufficient calcium in our body can induce symptoms, such as muscle spasms or cramps, weak, brittle nails, and fragile skin.