Unique Ways Seniors Can Get More Calcium


Calcium is a powerhouse that makes bones and teeth strong. Most people know that, but many aren’t aware that calcium does much more than that. Calcium is necessary to help your blood clot after suffering an injury. It helps your muscles contract, which means it literally helps you move. It also regulates your heart function, ensuring that it continues beating in a steady rhythm.

In most cases, 99% of the calcium in your body is stored in your bones. If you aren’t getting enough calcium in your daily diet to keep the other 1% in your muscles and other tissues, your body begins to pull calcium from your bones[1]. That makes your bones weaker, which can lead to injury, including fractures. For a senior adult, fractures can be quiet dangerous: the Endocrine Society reminds us that older adults who break a bone face a greater risk of death, with a hip fracture being the most severe. That alone is an excellent reason to invest in a medical alert watch, pendant or other device, especially one with fall detection. There can be other consequences of low calcium as well, such as an increased risk of high blood pressure[2].

It’s vitally important to get enough calcium in your daily diet to help prevent the loss of calcium from your bones. If you can’t get enough through diet, supplements can help. But calcium alone isn’t enough. The body needs help to absorb calcium, which is where vitamin D comes in. You need both every day to keep your body working as it should.

How Much Calcium is Enough?

Our need for calcium grows from the time we are born until around the age of 18. Then it drops a bit through our middle years and eventually goes back up. According to the Cleveland Clinic, those between the ages of 19 and 50 need about 1,000 mg of calcium each day – that’s for men or women. That recommendation changes for women at about the age of 51, when they need 1,200 mg each day. At the age of 71 or older, both men and women need to be taking in 1,200 mg each day.

But remember that your body can’t use calcium unless you have enough vitamin D as well. Unfortunately, vitamin D isn’t naturally present in many foods, which means you have to get it from somewhere else. The most common way is through fortified foods, such as cereal and milk to which vitamin D has been added. You can also get it from exposure to sunlight, but that comes with its own risks, such as a higher incidence of skin cancer.

Because it can be tough to get enough vitamin D, doctors sometimes recommend supplements to some of their patients. Up to the age of 70, you’ll need 600 international units per day; that rises to 800 IU per day if you’re over 70. However, the recommendations vary depending upon the expert you ask; the Endocrine Society recommends up to 2,000 IU daily intake of vitamin D for adults[3]. Depending upon your unique situation, your doctor might recommend or prescribe vitamin D at much higher levels than that.

A lack of calcium can increase the risk of osteoporosis, which increases the risk of bone fractures. And a lack of vitamin D increases the risk of falls, which of course can lead to fractures. As you get older, even if you take calcium and vitamin D supplements, falls are more likely to lead to serious consequences. That’s one reason why a medical alert device is so important. The last thing you want is to suffer a fall, sustain a serious injury, and then be unable to get help because you can’t move from where you are to get to a phone. A medical alert pendant takes that worry away by keeping the ability to summon assistance right there at your fingertips. If you suffer a fall, simply press the button and soon you’ll be on the line with a trained professional, who will ensure you get whatever help you need.

The Best Foods to Boost Calcium

Pay close attention to your diet to ensure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D. You should try to get two to four servings of calcium-rich foods each day[4].

Some of the foods on this list are expected, such as the dairy products. But there are other robust sources of calcium that can help you get as much as you need while keeping a unique and varied diet[5][6].

·         Dairy Products. These foods are by far the best sources of calcium you can incorporate into your diet. Eight ounces of milk has 250 mg of calcium, and so does one cup of cottage cheese. A single one-inch square of cheese packs 200 mg. Ricotta cheese is a powerhouse, clocking in at 330 mg per ½ cup. Want something sweet? Half a cup of pudding brings 150 mg and ½ cup of vanilla soft serve ice cream gives you 125 mg of calcium. As an added bonus, your body absorbs calcium from dairy products much more readily than it does calcium from plant-based sources[7].

·         Yogurt. Yes, this is a dairy product, but it stands apart thanks to the massive amount of calcium you can get from it. Plain, low-fat yogurt packs a whopping 448 mg of calcium per one-cup serving[8]. That’s an excellent reason to always have a bit of yogurt with breakfast!

·         Tofu. At a solid 200 mg of calcium per ½ cup serving (at least), tofu packs a nice punch. Make sure, however, that what you purchase is processed with calcium to get the full benefits.

·         Beans. One cup of pinto beans has 75 mg of calcium, white beans have 140 mg, and soybeans have 200 mg[9]. Legumes can deliver a hefty dose of calcium.

·         Green veggies. Get that green on your plate every day to increase a host of vitamins, minerals, and calcium. Mustard greens have 125 mg of calcium per one-cup serving, followed by collard or turnip greens at 122 mg, kale at 95 mg, and broccoli at 60 mg. Spinach offers 122 mg of calcium per one-cup serving as well, but the absorption might be a bit limited, so you don’t really get that much from spinach.

·         Fish. Several types of fish, including mackerel, salmon and sardines, provide a good amount of calcium. This is especially true if you eat canned fish with the soft bones included. Salmon with bones can bring 180 mg of calcium for every three ounces, and two pieces of canned sardines provides you with 92 mg of calcium. Worried about mercury? Don’t be. Smaller fish like sardines have low levels, and both sardines and salmon are packed with selenium, which can prevent and even reverse the toxicity of mercury[10].

·         Seeds. These little powerhouse foods can have a surprising amount of calcium. Almonds, for instance, contain 100 mg of calcium per ¼ cup, which makes them a perfect snack. One tablespoon of dried sesame seeds has 88 mg of calcium, and the same amount of poppy seeds has 127 mg. A good way to get these seeds in your diet? Bagels!

·         Fortified foods. Some foods don’t naturally have much calcium, but they can easily be fortified to include it. For instance, fortified dry cereals can bring up to 100 mg of calcium with each one-cup serving, while hot cereals, such as oatmeal, can bring up to 150 mg per cup. Some breakfast cereals can actually give you well over the recommended daily amount of calcium[11]. However, the body can’t absorb it all at once, so it’s best to spread your intake throughout the day.

·         Molasses. This tasty treat has 65 mg in one tablespoon. Opt for blackstrap molasses for the highest amounts of calcium.

·         Whey protein powder. The next time you make a smoothie with all the delicious things you love, drop in a scoop of whey powder. About 1.2 ounces of it brings 160 mg of calcium to your smoothie.

·         Orange juice. Just as with other products that are fortified, oranges don’t contain much calcium – but orange juice that has calcium added can help you get plenty. One cup of orange juice can contain up to 350 mg of calcium[12].

Should I Take Calcium Supplements?

Many doctors will recommend calcium supplements once you reach a certain age, with the assumption that your body won’t absorb enough calcium to make the minimum daily recommendation. One supplement dose provides between 500 and 600 mg of elemental calcium, though prescribed varieties might contain more. There are typically two options: calcium carbonate, which is best taken with food, and calcium citrate, which can be taken at any time. It is always necessary to speak to your doctor about whether or not you should take a calcium and/or vitamin D supplement or any other supplement for that matter, as your body, medications, and health issues are unique[13].

Is It Possible to Get Too Much Calcium?

Yes, it is entirely possible to have too much. Too much calcium in your blood is known as hypercalcemia. The Mayo Clinic points out there are numerous problems that result from this, including kidney stones, problems with your heart, and even weaker bones. You might experience excessive thirst and have to urinate often as your kidneys work to filter the excess calcium. Abdominal pain is a common symptom. You might even feel lethargy, fatigue, confusion, and depression.

Keep in mind that hypercalcemia might not be caused by anything you’re doing, such as taking too many supplements. Instead, it might be triggered by things like overactive parathyroid glands, living a sedentary lifestyle (as bones that don’t bear weight eventually release their calcium), being very dehydrated, and certain medications. If you have too much calcium in your blood, the approach your doctor takes will depend upon how serious it is. Some cases have little to no symptoms and can be monitored over time. Others are severe enough to be a medical emergency, which can include anything from administering IV fluids to surgery[14].

Getting too much calcium can leave you at risk of fatigue and lethargy, which can make you a serious fall risk. Do what you can to implement fall prevention measures in your home, including the use of medical alert technology. If you do fall down or have any other sort of accident or medical issue, the emergency panic button alarm is right there, ready to be used at any time, day or night. Pressing the button gets you in touch with trained professionals who can assess the situation and get someone to help you right away.

Getting the proper amount of calcium is a delicate balance. Speak with your doctor about calcium and vitamin D levels. Your bones will thank you for it!