Calcium and Healthy Bones - FamilyEducation

Calcium and Healthy Bones

Learn why calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body.

Why bother with calcium?

Imagine your bones as your calcium bank. Over the years, you can develop quite an extensive savings account by taking in plenty of calcium-rich foods and supplementing your diet with calcium pills. Keep up the good work as an adult and your bones stay calcium-rich!

On the other hand, regularly skimp on this mineral, and you'll wind up calcium-broke! Your body fluids still need calcium to regulate normal body functions. What these fluids don't get from food must be borrowed from the calcium-bone bank. Borrowing day after day, year after year, will deplete the savings account and leave you with osteoporosis (brittle bones that break easily).

Calcium is by far the most abundant mineral in your body, with about 99 percent of the stuff stored in your bones. The other 1 percent is located in your body fluids, where it helps to regulate functions such as blood pressure, nerve transmission, muscle contraction (including the heartbeat), clotting of blood, and the secretion of hormones and digestive enzymes. Make no bones about it: Calcium, along with vitamin D, fluoride, and phosphorus, is best known for its ability to promote strong, healthy bones. Calcium serves a vital role in bone structure, providing integrity and density to your skeleton. In turn, your bones act as a “calcium bank,” releasing calcium into your blood when your diet might be deficient (which we hope is not too often).

Many people think that once you're past a certain age, you don't have to worry about getting enough calcium. Wrong! Adequate calcium is important throughout your life: first and foremost for optimal bone building, and later on for bone maintenance. Generally, the first 24 years are important because your body is laying down the foundation for strong skeletal bones and teeth. In the first three decades of life, your bones reach their peak adult bone mass. (Bones are done growing in size and density.) Children who drink plenty of milk and eat other dairy and calcium-fortified foods will enter adulthood with stronger bones than those who skimp on calcium-rich foods.

Calcium intake in the later years is equally important for maintaining healthy bones. (I hope you already did all the right things in your first 30 years.) With age, your bones gradually lose their density (that is, calcium), which is especially true in menopausal women. People who take in adequate amounts of calcium can help slow down this process and defy those brittle bones of old age.