An estimated 44 percent to 87 percent of Americans don’t get enough calcium, including children, who are falling severely short on this mineral critical for proper growth and development. Unfortunately, there are not usually any obvious symptoms of a calcium deficiency, and people can go for years in a calcium-deficient state before any noticeable problems occur. Most of the symptoms that might occur due to a calcium deficiency would be seen only if calcium levels are low in the blood. Because the body is very good at keeping the blood calcium levels steady (often at the expense of bone strength), most people will never experience any symptoms of a deficiency until their bones are significantly weakened and fracture.
The benefits of boosting calcium go far beyond the obvious reasons of helping to normalize calcium levels and ensure healthy physiological processing. Several recent studies have shown links between increased calcium intake and specific health benefits in any array of conditions.
Premenstrual syndrome. It is found that a 50 percent decrease in PMS symptoms for women given calcium supplementation, compared to a 30 percent decrease for the placebo group. No other drug addresses all these symptoms as effectively. Another report, based on an epidemiological study of more than two thousand women, found a strong link between calcium and vitamin D intake and the risk of PMS. A high intake of calcium and vitamin D may reduce the risk of PMS.
Weight loss. Other studies have demonstrated links between increased calcium intake and weight loss. One of the researchers reported that calcium plays a key role in metabolic disorders linked to obesity, and also that high calcium diets lead to the release of a hormone that leads to the body’s fat cells losing weight. This is the basis on which the milk industry claims its product helps cinch a waistline, bolstering the “it does a body good” mantra.
High blood pressure. Clinical trials have also linked how calcium levels with high blood pressure. Argentinean research showed that women who take calcium during pregnancy may lower their children’s future risk of blood-pressure problems. Studies done at Rockefeller University showed that calcium supplements were of general benefit to both mother and baby during pregnancy.
Colon cancer. Researchers have linked calcium with the prevention of colon cancer.
Stroke. Harvard scientists reported on a link between increased calcium and the prevention of stroke.
Cholesterol. Researchers have shown that increased calcium can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
The Ex Factor
You know you can’t get through a health book without a mention of the “ex” factor, or exercise. Physical activity directly ties in to the conversation about bone and muscle health. Physical exercise, especially the weight-bearing kind, puts healthy stress on your bones to keep them strong and force them to be even stronger. It also works the muscles that keep you nimble and quick on your feet.
Young women and men who exercise regularly generally achieve greater peak bone mass than those who do not. Exercising allows us to maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which in turn helps to prevent falls and related fractures. This is especially important for older adults and people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. The exercise you choose needn’t be complicated, boring, or overly challenging or demanding. The best exercise for your bones is the kind that forces you to work against gravity, even if its’ simply by working against your own body weight, as is the case for modern forms of yoga, mat Pilates, and the use of a resistance band. Other examples include weight training, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, dancing, and of course, walking. It’s the constant pounding on the ground that translates to better muscle strength in the hips and lower back, maintaining or increasing bone density. These are the two places that are at highest risk for fracture.