Calcium is one of the body's electrolytes Overview of Electrolytes Well over half of the body's weight is made up of water. Doctors think about the body's water as being restricted to various spaces, called fluid compartments. The three main compartments are... read more , which are minerals Overview of Minerals Minerals are necessary for the normal functioning of the body’s cells. The body needs relatively large quantities of Calcium Chloride Magnesium Phosphate read more that carry an electric charge when dissolved in body fluids such as blood, but most of the body's calcium is uncharged. (See also Overview of Electrolytes Overview of Electrolytes Well over half of the body's weight is made up of water. Doctors think about the body's water as being restricted to various spaces, called fluid compartments. The three main compartments are... read more .)
About 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones, but cells (particularly muscle cells) and blood also contain calcium. Calcium is essential for the following:
Formation of bone and teeth
Normal functioning of many enzymes
Normal heart rhythm
The body precisely controls the amount of calcium in cells and blood. The body moves calcium out of bones into blood as needed to maintain a steady level of calcium in the blood. If people do not consume enough calcium, too much calcium is mobilized from the bones, weakening them. Osteoporosis Osteoporosis Osteoporosis is a condition in which a decrease in the density of bones weakens the bones, making breaks (fractures) likely. Aging, estrogen deficiency, low vitamin D or calcium intake, and... read more can result. To maintain a normal level of calcium in blood without weakening the bones, people need to consume at least 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of calcium a day.
The level of calcium in blood is regulated primarily by two hormones:
Parathyroid hormone is produced by the four parathyroid glands, located around the thyroid gland Overview of the Thyroid Gland The thyroid is a small gland, measuring about 2 inches (5 centimeters) across, that lies just under the skin below the Adam’s apple in the neck. The two halves (lobes) of the gland are connected... read more in the neck. When the calcium level in blood decreases, the parathyroid glands produce more parathyroid hormone. When the calcium level in blood increases, the parathyroid glands produce less hormone. Parathyroid hormone does the following:
Stimulates bones to release calcium into blood
Causes the kidneys to excrete less calcium in urine
Stimulates the digestive tract to absorb more calcium
Causes the kidneys to activate vitamin D, which enables the digestive tract to absorb more calcium
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.
Too little calcium in the blood is called hypocalcemia Hypocalcemia (Low Level of Calcium in the Blood) In hypocalcemia, the calcium level in blood is too low. A low calcium level may result from a problem with the parathyroid glands, as well as from diet, kidney disorders, or certain drugs. As... read more . Too much calcium in the blood is called hypercalcemia Hypercalcemia (High Level of Calcium in the Blood) In hypercalcemia, the level of calcium in blood is too high. A high calcium level may result from a problem with the parathyroid glands, as well as from diet, cancer, or disorders affecting... read more .