Calcium In Women
It would be quite surprising to note that more than 10 million Americans- 80% of whom are women- suffer from calcium deficiency led condition called Osteoporosis. Still astonishing is the fact that we all have at some time or the other heard, read or understood the condition of Osteoporosis as the state of bones turning porous due to inadequate supply of calcium and consequent breaking, but not tried to learn how to overcome the inadequacies of calcium. Women are four times more prone to develop diseases related to calcium deficiency.
Apart from Osteoporosis, there are so many other serious ailments related to insufficient calcium intake, especially in women. According to a study conducted, 34 million Americans suffer from Osteopenia, a premature form of Osteoporosis. Whom should we blame for such a deplorable health mode? Is it the society we thrive in or the lifestyles that we follow that should be castigated? Whatever the reason be, one thing is for sure that we only can bring a change to the present situation by making others aware about the declining health issue of the fairer sex.
There are severe as well as mild cases of calcium deficiency. We should not ignore even the slightest symptom of brittle nails, muscle spasm, irritability. Other mild warning may be insomnia, palpitation or nerve acuteness. As far as the indications relating to severe deficiency are concerned, abnormality in heartbeats, rigorous cramps and pains in muscles, stiffness, tickling or regular numbness felt in hands and legs should not be left unconsidered. Sometimes the cases can be so severe that it drags the patient to depression.
Low intake of calcium is associated with increased blood pressure and even cardiovascular diseases. Mere reading of these statistics of calcium deficiency or consuming an added amount of dairy products will not suffice. Everybody should be aware as of how such a large amount of the population that too females fall prey to such a condition that can be avoided with a check in diet right from the childhood. First step to overcome deficiencies of calcium is to have a thorough knowledge about what to include in our diets and avoid in lifestyle to attain the desirable ‘bone mass density’.
There is a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium by National Institutes of Health, which if followed accordingly; nearly all the bone related diseases can be kept at bay. It is estimated that only 10% of girls meet the RDA level of calcium consumption. In North America, elders especially women are frequently affected by bone fractures.
Now that we are aware of the rising threats caused by this white mineral, it becomes our responsibility to go deeper into the matter and come out with a bagful of knowledge about this main component of our scaffolding core. Calcium plays a vital role in woman’s health and its intake should be practiced with much seriousness and effort right from the childhood. Human body has a capacity to store calcium in bones or the skeletal framework.
But the fact to be noted is that this process continues only till the age of 35 to 40, depending on the absorption rates and the nutritional value of the food consumed. So women should strictly follow a calcium rich diet so that once they reach the threshold age, their body has enough calcium stored in their bones which can be used for remodeling of bones in their later years of life.
Studies show that 60% of dietary calcium is absorbed during childhood and early adulthood which in later stages of adulthood decreases by 20%. In earlier times, diseases like Osteoporosis were considered attacking the elderly, now even a 12 year girl is under threat of the same. We often find the word ‘calcium’ on labels of products and in health magazines but it is to be understood as a main factor in strengthening of bones, hormone secretion, nervous functions, muscle functions, proper functioning of heart and of course in keeping our teeth fit and healthy.
Though the deficiency of calcium may happen to any person, male or female, young or old, there are certain group who are most affected by this. They include post-menopausal women, those with ‘Female Athlete Triad’, strict vegetarians, those who are lactose intolerant, girls with Anorexia nervosa, and females with Amenorrhea, people who are on some diet plans or weight loss regimes, those who are on high protein or high fiber diet, people who are strong alcoholic.
Consuming high amount of phosphorus may accelerate excretion of calcium from the bones. During the first five or six years after menopause, there is maximum possibility of bone loss. This is due to decline of circulating estrogen and age–related reduction in vitamin D production. However there lies a hope for slowing of bone loss even in post menopausal age just by inducing a calcium rich diet and assuring an optimum calcium intake.
A research conducted on about 124 women, aged between 52 and 62 showed a considerable change in bone mineral density in those who had a greater calcium intake. It is to be kept in mind that apart from calcium, vitamin D, Magnesium and Boron are also very necessary to build healthy bones. Elderly women and those with less estrogen production are often treated successfully for the problem with a therapy known as ‘Estrogen Replacement Therapy’.
Girls, who are active in sports and exercise intensely, put themselves at risk of acquiring a combination of three conditions namely ‘Disordered eating’, Amenorrhea and Osteoporosis. A female athlete can have one, two or all the three triads. When females cut down their food intake in order to lose weight to become more fit to perform in sports, they actually fall in the risk of disordered eating or sometimes much more serious conditions like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
In the second case of Female Athlete Triad, known as Amenorrhea, the females who exercise vigorously often lag in taking enough calories which gradually decreases estrogen in their body. Estrogen is the hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle. As a result, either her periods become irregular or it completely stops. Therefore it is strictly recommended that they gorge heavily on complete foods which contain all the minerals essential for the body including calcium.
The third condition, osteoporosis affects the athletes because of the low levels of estrogen and poor nutrition. Thus their bones become very fragile and are subjected to frequent fractures. As a result, the future of the female as an athlete is also destroyed. Keeping all these in mind, one can easily assess what the role of calcium in one’s life is so significant. Parents as well as coaches should make girls aware of these hidden threats and encourage them to stick to austere food habits. Because calcium absorption decreases by age it is advisable that one clubs vitamin D with calcium source.
This supports a significant increase in calcium absorption. Vitamin D helps calcium to be easily absorbed in the blood stream and bones. Apart from consuming vitamin D rich foods like cod liver oil, canned salmon, kippers, fortified butter, roe, margarine, herring, eggs, breakfast cereals etc it would definitely be a good idea to enjoy sunlight for about 20 minutes daily. That is why vitamin D is also termed as ‘sunshine vitamin’.
One thing to be noted here is that this should be done before 10 in the morning or after 4 in the evening and that too without any sunscreen application on your skin. Vegetables rich in phytates and oxalates hinder calcium absorption. Protein intake in women should be at a check because this is inversely proportional to calcium level in the body.
A scientific calculation says that each additional gram protein results in additional loss of 1.75mg of calcium per day. As only 30% of dietary calcium is generally absorbed, each 1g increase in protein intake per day would need an additional 5.8mg of calcium per day to compensate the calcium loss. Consumption of caffeine has adverse effects on women who are low on calcium intake.
Those who drink 2 or more cups of coffee a day may be at a risk of hip fracture. Experts say that caffeine has a moderate impact on calcium retention. A short-term calcium excretion takes place through urine which in turn decreases calcium absorption. So caffeine addicts should take in more calcium. As calcium, other minerals are also very important to human body, especially to women health. But increase in iron, magnesium and sodium cutbacks calcium in the body through urine.
Calcium helps muscles contract whereas magnesium helps muscles relax. Major calcium sources are dairy products. Make sure your dairy foods are low in fats and measure 16 – 24 ounce a day. If you are dairy intolerant, switch to fortified cereals, juices, preferably fortified orange juice, green vegetables, lactose treated milk, fortified soya, rice beverages. Plain yogurt, fruited yogurt, sardines with bones, cheddar cheese, lactose-treated mozzarella and fat free milk are also good sources of calcium. Chocolates are also calcium rich.
Calcium supplements definitely help women restore their calcium loss but you should touch base with your doctor before starting with one. Supplementary calcium ingestion may suffice for the offset of calcium loss and keep the bones and teeth strong and healthy. The best absorbed form of calcium is calcium citrate malate (CCM), which proves beneficial in reducing the risk of kidney stone. Supplementary calcium may accompany some side effects as well.
Constipation, gas and bloating are some examples. Magnesium helps get rid of constipation. Overdose of calcium can result in renal damage or calcium deposit in other areas besides bones. Women often skip their share of calcium and shows interest in feeding her loved ones.
And it is high time now that her loved ones make it a point to protect her bones from fracture by providing her calcium rich foods and supplements. Some simple techniques like substituting milk for soda, using milk instead of water in recipes, munching cheese as snacks and sipping fruit smoothies may help them dance with confidence with their grandchildren.