Why Do Women Need More Calcium?

by Cindy Ell

About Cindy Ell

Cindy Ell began writing professionally in 1990. A former medical librarian, she has written materials for hospitals, medical associations, the "Nashville Scene" and "Coping Magazine." She received her Bachelor of Arts in linguistics from the University of Massachusetts and her Master of Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute. She is currently a full-time freelance medical writer.

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Calcium is an essential nutrient, meaning that it must be obtained through dietary means for the normal growth, development and maintenance of the body. Both men and women need calcium, but women have higher requirements at different stages of life -- specifically, after age 50, or during pregnancy or lactation. For personalized information about the role that calcium should play in your diet, consult your doctor or a registered dietitian.

Calcium and the Body

Calcium is vital for signal transduction, hormone secretion and muscle contraction. The level of calcium in the bloodstream is precisely maintained by the body, according to the Linus Pauling Micronutrient Information Center. Because calcium is so important to normal physiological functioning, when the calcium level in the bloodstream drops, the body will obtain the calcium that it needs from the bones. Impaired bone health can result.

Calcium in Pregnancy

Additional calcium is important for pregnant women and their developing babies. Supplemental calcium may lower your risk of preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy-related condition characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure. Additionally, taking in adequate calcium when you are pregnant improves bone mineralization in your baby. If you are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy, talk to your doctor about your calcium needs.

Calcium for Female Athletes

While athletic activities are generally beneficial for women, a subset of women athletes suffer from a dangerous condition called "female athlete triad." CalciumInfo.com states that female athlete triad is associated with eating disorders, menstrual cessation or irregularity and osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones that often leads to stress fractures. This condition is brought on by the restrictive diets and excessive training that some women undergo in order to achieve their ideals of athletic excellence. Adequate calcium can help stem the osteoporosis that is a component of the female athlete triad, but behavioral changes are also necessary. Physicians who care for female athletes should be aware of this condition, especially since those who have it often try to hide it from coaches and peers.

Calcium and Estrogen

You may think of estrogen as a female sex hormone, but it also is a key factor in bone health for men and women alike. When a woman's estrogen level drops due to menopause, osteoporosis can result, significantly increasing the risk of bone fractures. The National Osteoporosis Foundation states that bone density in women can decline by as much as 20 percent within 7 years after the onset of menopause. Adequate calcium and vitamin D consumption may help keep bones healthy during this stage of life, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and subsequent fractures.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.