Calcium makes up 1 percent to 2 percent of adult body weight. While over 99 percent of calcium is found in teeth and bones, the rest is present in blood, muscles and other tissues. Calcium deficiency is commonly caused by vitamin D deficiency or by dysfunction or surgical removal of the parathyroid glands. Deficiency of this mineral causes a variety of symptoms, depending on its severity and how quickly it develops. When it develops rapidly, it may cause such problems as muscle spasms, seizures and abnormal heart rhythms. People with chronic calcium deficiency may have no symptoms, or they may develop cataracts, changes in behavior, or problems with their bones, skin and teeth.
Severe symptoms of calcium deficiency disease include:
a) confusion or memory loss
b) muscle spasms
c) numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, and face
f) muscle cramps
g) weak and brittle nails
h) easy fracturing of the bones
How is it tested?
A blood calcium test is ordered to screen for, diagnose, and monitor a range of conditions relating to the bones, heart, nerves, kidneys, and teeth. The test may also be ordered if a person has symptoms of a parathyroid disorder, malabsorption, or an overactive thyroid.
Calcium Deficiency in Infants
Neonatal hypocalcemia occurs in infants soon after birth. Most neonatal hypocalcemia occurs within the first two days after birth. But late onset hypocalcemia can occur three days after birth or later.
Risk factors for infants include being small for their age and maternal diabetes. Late onset hypocalcemia is most often caused by drinking cow's milk or formula with too much phosphate.
Symptoms of neonatal hypocalcemia include:
ii. poor feeding
iv. apnea, or slowed breathing
v. tachycardia, or a faster-than-normal heartbeat
Diagnosis is made by testing an infant's blood for the total calcium level or ionized calcium level. The infant's glucose level will also be tested to rule out hypoglycemia.
How can calcium deficiency disease be prevented?
1. You can prevent calcium deficiency disease by including calcium in your diet every day.
Be aware that foods high in calcium, such as dairy products, can also be high in saturated fat and trans fat. Choose low-fat or fat-free options to reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol and heart disease. You might want to supplement your diet by taking a multivitamin. Or your doctor may recommend supplements if you're at high risk for developing a calcium deficiency.
Multivitamins may not contain all of the calcium you need, so be sure to eat a well-rounded diet. If you're pregnant, take a prenatal vitamin.
2. Take Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important because it increases the rate calcium is absorbed into your blood. Ask your doctor how much vitamin D you need.
To increase your calcium intake, you can add food rich in vitamin D to your diet. These include:
i. fatty fish like salmon and tuna
ii. fortified orange juice
iii. fortified milk
iv. portobello mushrooms
As with calcium-rich dairy products, some vitamin D-rich dairy products can also be high in saturated fat.
3. Lifestyle changes
In addition to maintaining healthy calcium and vitamin D levels, there are certain lifestyle changes you can make to promote bone health. These include maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly, and restricting tobacco use and alcohol intake.
If you miss your daily dose of calcium, you won't become calcium deficient overnight. But it's still important to make an effort to get enough calcium every day, since the body uses it quickly.