Calcium is a vital nutrient that your body needs in order to thrive. This mineral can be found in a wide variety of delicious foods, so it can be surprisingly easy to get a good amount of it from your daily diet. Beyond that, however, taking a calcium supplement, or at least a multi-vitamin/mineral that contains calcium, can help you rest assured that you are filling in any nutritional gaps left behind by your diet.
Getting the right amount of calcium should be the goal, whether you are a man or a woman. But, women do have specific calcium needs, particularly as they get older. How much calcium do women need? Check out the information below to learn about the calcium needs of women.
What Is Calcium, and Why Is It Important?
Calcium is an important and one of the most abundant minerals in your body. It’s responsible for the maintenance of the skeletal system, specifically bone development. It is also vital in muscle contractions, strong teeth, blood clotting, and for conducting nerve impulses.
Calcium Needs of Women: How Much Calcium Do They Need?
As women age, calcium becomes increasingly important in the prevention of osteoporosis, which gradually decreases bone density, resulting in brittle bones that can easily fracture.
Over 95% of the calcium you take in is directed towards bone health. Your bones are continuously undergoing changes including growth, reformation and remodeling as calcium is absorbed, stored and deposited.
These changes occur at different rates depending on your age. Children and adolescent females experience rapid bone growth and formation with little deterioration, middle aged women usually experience equal, and post-menopausal women begin experiencing more bone loss than formation.
Because of these differences, recommended calcium intake varies for women of different ages:
- Children 0yrs-3yrs should consume between 200mg-700mg
- Children 4yrs-8yrs should consume between 1,000mg-1200mg
- Children 9yrs-13yrs should consume between 1200mg-1300mg
- Adolescents 14yrs-18yrs should consume 1300mg
- Women 19yrs-50yrs should consume 1,000mg
- Women 51yrs+ should consume between 1,000mg-1200mg
Meeting the Calcium Needs of Women with Diet
There are several sources of calcium that include both dairy and non-dairy options. There are calcium dietary supplements as well as foods and beverages that contain fortified calcium.
- Some of the dairy products rich in natural calcium include yogurt (400mg), cheese (300mg), milk (300mg), calcium fortified soymilk (300mg), and cottage cheese (150mg).
- Some non-dairy products that contain calcium include sardines, canned, in oil, with bones (300mg), calcium fortified orange juice (250mg), tofu (250mg), salmon, canned, with bones (200mg), cereal 100mg-1000mg), turnip greens (100mg), spinach (100mg) and kale (100mg).
- The two most prevalent calcium supplements include calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. These supplements can be found to include anywhere from 200mg-1000mg of calcium.
- Other forms of calcium also include antacids like Tums (200mg).
Calcium Needs of Women: How to Meet the Requirements
Calcium found both naturally and in supplements should be taken gradually throughout the day because your body actually absorbs less calcium as intake increases. This means that if you are taking 1000mg of calcium your body will absorb more if the dose was split in half and taken at different times of the day, rather than all at once. There are also foods that can be eaten to increase absorption, specifically foods high in protein, vitamin D and acidic foods.
What Are the Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency?
In addition to knowing the calcium needs of women in terms of how much they should be getting every day, it is also important to have an idea of what the symptoms of deficiency are. That way, if you are a woman who is trying to figure out if you are getting enough calcium, you can see if symptoms of deficiency are present to help guide you in the right direction.
According to Healthline, there are many different symptoms that may point to a deficiency in calcium. During the early stages of deficiency, however, you might not even experience any signs of there being a problem.
As the deficiency continues to worsen, though, you might experience one or more of the following signs that you are not meeting your body’s calcium needs:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle cramping
- Nails that are brittle and weak
- Numbness and tingling in the face, feet, and hands
- Bone fractures that occur easily
- Memory loss or confusion
- Thin and fragile skin
- Slower than normal hair growth
If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is necessary to talk to your doctor to figure out if a calcium deficiency is to blame, or if another condition is causing you to feel unwell.
The Connection Between Vitamin D and the Calcium Needs of Women
No discussion of the calcium needs of women would be complete without discussing the connection between vitamin D and calcium. So, before we conclude, you should also know that vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Therefore, if you are not getting enough vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, through diet, and through supplementation, you might be putting yourself at risk of experiencing a calcium deficiency as well.
Your doctor can perform a simple blood test to check the level of vitamin D in your body. Be aware that many people are deficient in this key nutrient, so this problem is common. Once your doctor determines how much vitamin D is in your blood, he or she can help you figure out the best way to bring the level of this vitamin up, if necessary. In doing so, you might find that your calcium level is also regulated.
Have Questions About the Calcium Needs of Women? Talk to Your Doctor!
Now that you know more about the calcium needs of women, it is time to think about whether or not you are getting enough. A blood test that your doctor administers can help reveal whether or not you are getting enough calcium currently through your diet and supplement routine. Your doctor can then tell you about what steps you can take to ensure your calcium levels remain stable, and he or she can also assist you in figuring out how you can get more calcium if you need to do so.
There you have it: the calcium needs of women can be met surprisingly easily when you take the right approach and doing so can help prevent many health problems. Ultimately, women planning to increase their calcium intake or take daily supplements should first check with a physician to ensure it is necessary and does not interfere with any medications that could decrease absorption.