Mineral deficiencies and senior health

 

Out of all the minerals that your body needs for proper function, calcium and magnesium are by far the most important. Deficiencies of calcium and magnesium may cause tension, muscle aches and pains, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

There are, however, natural substances that can help ease or even eliminate the painful symptoms that many people suffer every day. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in your body. About 99% of all the calcium is in your bones and teeth.

The remaining calcium is found in your blood and cells. Every cell in your body requires calcium for normal metabolic and electromagnetic activity. It is essential for normal muscular activity, including the heart muscle.

Lack of calcium and magnesium affects the ability of muscles to contract, which in turn affects the joints. Deficiency of these minerals can cause instability, pain and "shrinking" that we regard as a part of "normal aging."

Why is Calcium so Important?

Calcium assists in the absorption of nutrients, is responsible for the transmission of messages within your cells and is also required for the contraction and relaxation of your muscles.

Without calcium, nerve fiber membranes can cause repetitive signals, which end up as uncontrollable impulses, or twitches. You need to get at least 1000 mg of calcium per day from your diet. If you consume less than this amount your body will have to remove some of the calcium from your bones in order to make sure that the organs and tissues will still receive all the calcium they need.

Clearly this is not the best way to meet calcium needs of the body, because it will weaken the bones and may still prove inadequate for optimal calcium status.

According to a study published in 1996 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), "virtually all Americans are deficient in calcium." This study looked at almost 2,500 women with high blood pressure, most of whom were deficient in calcium. Once the deficiency was corrected, blood pressure was normalized in 70% of the patients.

Osteoporosis, a disease of decreased bone mass, affects about 5 million American men and 25 million American women. The risk is especially high in post-menopausal women. Overall, about 50% of women over 45 already have or will have osteoporosis and bone loss. It is well known that calcium supplementation can prevent and reverse osteoporosis and the risk of dangerous fractures.

Calcium is also essential for normal hormonal balance. A study of almost 500 women performed at Columbia University and published in 1998 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology , showed that calcium is effective against a wide variety of PMS symptoms. Daily calcium supplements have reduced the occurrence of mood swings, headaches, food cravings and bloating by 50%!

Medical studies have shown that deficiency of calcium can lead to heart rhythm irregularities, insomnia, high blood pressure, cramps, "growing pains" in teenagers, brittle nails and joint pains. Benefits of calcium include:

1. strong bones
2. strong teeth
3. healthy gums
4. normal blood clotting
5. normal heart function
6. normal blood pressure
7. normal muscle contraction
8. normal sleep pattern
9. normal function of the nervous system and nerve impulses

Why You also Need Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body. It is necessary for normal function of over 300 different enzymes with a broad range of activity.

Between 50-60% of all the magnesium in your body can be found in your bones. You need a minimum of 350 to 400 mg of magnesium daily. The best source of this mineral is green, leafy vegetables. But since most Americans do not eat the required 6-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, magnesium deficiency is extremely common.

Because of its effect on various enzymes, deficiency of magnesium leads to a wide range of symptoms - irritability, fatigue, insomnia, poor digestion, palpitations, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, pain, depression, asthma, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), muscle weakness and cramps. Studies show that magnesium is necessary for:

1. energy production
2. nerve impulse transmission
3. pH balance in the body
4. maintenance of blood pressure
5. normal heart function
6. normal heart rhythm
7. relaxation of arteries
8. relaxation of the skeletal muscles
9. carbohydrate metabolism
10. balance of minerals in the body
11. protection against kidney stones (together with vitamin B6)
12. bone health, prevention of osteoporosis
13. prevention of PMS symptoms
14. improved mental function
15. improved cellular activity
16. improved sleep patterns and elimination of insomnia
17. improvement in depression
18. whiter, healthier teeth

An injection of magnesium can stop an attack of bronchial asthma. When given intravenously to heart attack victims, magnesium reduces mortality and improves outcome.

Magnesium shots have been used in cases of congestive heart failure and have been reported to improve Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Because it supports normal adrenal gland function, magnesium is also known as the "anti-stress" mineral.

Gentle Relaxation

Most of the processes of cell maintenance and repair take place while you sleep. The combination of calcium and magnesium has a calm, soothing effect that improves the quality of sleep, which thereby promotes and enhances your body's natural rejuvenation process.

Calcium is absorbed better in the presence of vitamin C, which is an important antioxidant that boosts immune function, improves cholesterol profiles and even offers some protection against cancer.

This is what makes antacids with calcium carbonate (a.k.a. chalk), such as TUMS, ineffective. Calcium citrate appears to be better absorbed and more effective against osteoporosis.

Proper calcium absorption also requires a sufficient amount of vitamin D. Current evidence suggests that the combination of vitamin D and calcium supplements can help prevent, slow down and possibly even reverse the effects of osteoporosis. In a 2-year, controlled study of 130 individuals, daily supplementation of calcium and vitamin D was found to have reversed bone loss.

Some evidence suggests that vitamin D may even help prevent cancer of the breast, colon, pancreas and prostate.

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