Calcium is a mineral that plays a role in many bodily processes, including blood clotting and the release of hormones. Adequate calcium intake is important for maintaining optimal nerve transmission and regulating heart function.
Calcium is the mineral most commonly associated with healthy bones and teeth, although it also plays an important role in blood clotting, helping muscle contraction and regulating normal heart rhythm and nerve function. About 99% of the body's calcium is stored in the bones and the remaining 1% is found in blood, muscles and other tissues.
In order to perform these vital functions, the body works to maintain a constant amount of calcium in the blood and tissues. If the level of calcium in the blood drops too low, parathyroid hormone (PTH) signals the bones to release calcium into the bloodstream. This hormone can also activate vitamin D to improve intestinal calcium absorption. At the same time, PTH signals the kidneys to release less calcium in the urine. When the body has enough calcium, another hormone called calcitonin works in the opposite way: it reduces the level of calcium in the blood by stopping the release of calcium from the bones and signaling the kidneys to get rid of it more in the urine.
Getting enough calcium can help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that increases the risk of bone fractures. It is also important to have enough vitamin D with calcium, as this combination increases mineral absorption.
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