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Most people know that calcium is crucial to building and maintaining strong bones, teeth, and connective tissue. However, many are unaware of other equally important roles calcium plays in the body: it promotes healthy digestion through the production of hormones and enzymes, helps nerves pass the electrical messages needed to contract the heart and other muscles in the body, assists in normal blood clotting, and may help prevent high blood pressure and colon cancer.

Without an adequate supply of calcium, you are almost certain to develop osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to become thin and brittle. 99 percent of all the calcium in your body is located in the teeth and bones and the remaining 1 percent is in the blood stream; however, this 1 percent is so important to the normal functioning of other bodily systems that your body will cannibalize its bone to perform them if you donít get enough in the diet.

Other factors besides poor diet also cause osteoporosis. After age 35, bone density naturally decreases. This is due in part because the body produces less estrogen and testosterone, hormones that control how fast the body uses calcium. Less hormones in the system mean less calcium in the bones, and thus, greater bone loss.

Women are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis after menopause. They also generally have thinner bones and smaller skeletons to begin with, which leaves them more vulnerable to this disease.

However, osteoporosis is not a disease that is just for women, and this perception has not served men well. For instance, doctors are more likely to educate women than men about the importance of a diet high in calcium and supplementation. They may not be so apt to give men the same instruction. Although men donít go through menopause, they do produce less hormones as they age, and so are also at increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

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