The Role of Calcium in the Proper Functioning of the Human Body
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Calcium was discovered in 1808 by Humphry Davy. The name comes from the Latin ‘calx’ meaning lime. Calcium is the most common mineral in the body. This mineral is required for the formation of bones and for everyday bodily functions like muscle contractions and blood clotting. Calcium plays many major roles in different systems throughout the body.
Calcium is one of the most important minerals for the human body. This mineral helps form and maintain healthy teeth and bones. Having a calcium rich diet at a young age can guarantee stronger bones later in life. The bones in the body act as a storage place for calcium while the bones are growing and becoming stronger. At the end of the teenage years, the bones will stop taking in calcium. The balance of calcium in the bones must then be maintained by continuing a calcium rich diet. The body will continuously remove small amounts of calcium as needed from the bones and replace it with new calcium.
Calcium also plays a major role in clotting blood. When the skin breaks, the sticky platelets contained in the blood form clots to stop blood flow. Calcium and Vitamin K work together along with a protein called fibrinogen in the clotting cascade. Without adequate levels of calcium and vitamin K, blood will take much longer to clot. Nerves also need calcium in the process of sending and receiving signals throughout the body. Nerve cells contain calcium channels that allow this mineral to flow into the cell and activate proteins that trigger an impulse leading to muscle contraction.
Upon nervous system excitation for contraction, calcium is released into the fiber. It binds with trophin and stimulates it to move tropomyosin, which then exposes the binding site for the crossbridge. Because of the presence of calcium, the muscle can now contract. Contraction and relaxation of the muscles occur because of rapidly changing concentrations od calcium inside muscle cells, a biochemical process referred to as the calcium cycle. Too much or too little calcium in the blood can cause muscular symptoms due to disruption of the calcium cycle.
Calcium is needed when the body releases hormones to the body. The level of calcium in blood is regulated primarily by two hormones, parathyroid and calcitonin. Parathyroid hormone is produced by the four parathyroid glands that are located around the thyroid gland in the neck. When the calcium level in the blood decreases, the parathyroid glands produce more parathyroid hormone. When the levels increase, the parathyroid glands produce less hormone. This hormone stimulates bones to release calcium into the blood, causes kidneys to excrete less calcium in urine, stimulates the digestive tract to absorb more calcium, and causes the kidneys to activate vitamin D. Calcitonin is produced by cells of the thyroid gland. It lowers the calcium level in blood by slowing the breakdown of bone, but only slightly.
Hypocalcemia is known as calcium deficiency disease. This occurs when calcium levels in the blood are low. Complications of this disease can be life-threatening. If the condition goes untreated, it could eventually lead to death. There are no early symptoms of a calcium deficiency. Symptoms that arise become worse as hypocalcemia progresses. A symptom may be muscle aches, cramps, and spasms. People tend to feel pain in the thighs and arms, particularly the underarms, when walking and other movements. A calcium deficiency can also cause tingling and numbness in the hands, arms, feet, legs, and around the mouth.
Low levels of calcium can cause insomnia. Fatigue associated with calcium deficiency can also cause dizziness, forgetfulness, and confusion. Chronic calcium deficiency can affect the skin, nails and hair. The skin may become dry and itchy. Researchers have linked hypocalcemia to eczema and psoriasis. This deficiency can also lead to dry, brittle and broken nails. It can also contribute to alopecia, a condition that causes hair to fall out in patches.
Calcium deficiency can lead to Osteoporosis and Osteopenia. Osteopenia reduces the mineral density of bones, and it can lead to Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis makes bones thinner and more susceptible to fractures. It can cause pain, issues with posture, and eventually disability. It takes years for bones to lose density, and a calcium deficiency may take as long to cause serious problems. When the body lacks calcium, it pulls it from sources such as the teeth. This can lead to dental problems including weak roots, irritated gums, brittle teeth, and tooth decay. This can also delay tooth formation in infants.
Calcium deficiency can be prevented and treated. The safest and easiest way to manage and prevent a calcium deficiency is by adding more calcium to the diet. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products, beans, figs, broccoli, tofu, soymilk, spinach, fortified cereals, nuts and seeds. Someone with a calcium deficiency should not treat themselves with a lot of calcium supplements. By adding too much calcium into a daily diet can cause kidney stones. I Some calcium supplements that are suggested would be calcium carbonate, which is the least expensive and has the most elemental calcium. Another supplement recommended is calcium citrate, which is most easily absorbed. A third supplement is calcium phosphate, which is also easily absorbed and does not cause constipation.
By maintaining a calcium rich diet, we are helping a lot of different areas in the body. Calcium is needed not only to keep the body healthy and strong, but also plays a major role is the functioning of the different body systems.