El­e­vated cal­cium and parathy­roid hor­mone

Cape Breton Post - - IN MEMORIAM/ADVICE/GAMES - HEALTH Keith Roach Dr. Roach re­grets that he is un­able to an­swer in­di­vid­ual let­ters, but will in­cor­po­rate them in the col­umn when­ever pos­si­ble. Read­ers may email ques­tions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cor­nell.edu or re­quest an or­der form of avail­able health ne

DEAR DR. ROACH: I’m a healthy fe­male in my mid-70s. I’ve taken the rec­om­mended cal­cium cit­rate with vi­ta­min D for years, un­til about three months ago, when test re­sults showed I have slightly higher than nor­mal cal­cium lev­els. I stopped the cal­cium, but test­ing re­sults were the same three months later. Since women have been ad­vised to take cal­cium, es­pe­cially as we age, this is quite a sur­prise. — M.T.

AN­SWER: Most of the cal­cium in the body is locked away in the bones. The body has sev­eral sys­tems to care­fully reg­u­late the cal­cium level in the blood. The two most pow­er­ful of these are vi­ta­min D and parathy­roid hor­mone. Ab­nor­mal­i­ties in ei­ther of these can cause prob­lems in blood cal­cium lev­els, which is very dan­ger­ous, be­cause it can af­fect the mus­cles. A very low blood cal­cium level causes tetany, se­vere cramp­ing and in­abil­ity to move mus­cles nor­mally (tetanus is an in­fec­tious disease that causes mus­cle cramps via an en­tirely dif­fer­ent path­way).

With low cal­cium in­take, blood cal­cium re­mains nor­mal or near nor­mal, but the cal­cium in the bones is de­pleted. That’s why ad­e­quate cal­cium in­take is im­por­tant in the preven­tion and treat­ment of os­teo­poro­sis. Cal­cium through the diet is pre­ferred to cal­cium via sup­ple­ments, be­cause sup­ple­ments in­crease the risk of kid­ney stones and may in­crease the risk of heart disease.

High lev­els of blood cal­cium are more likely to be due to ex­cess parathy­roid hor­mone than high vi­ta­min D (which is very un­com­mon). With the body sys­tems work­ing nor­mally, ex­cess di­etary cal­cium is sim­ply ex­creted by the kid­neys.

Since the most likely cause for high cal­cium is an ex­cess of parathy­roid hor­mone, of­ten made by a be­nign tu­mor of the parathy­roid gland, your doc­tor should test your parathy­roid hor­mone level.

The os­teo­poro­sis pam­phlet fur­nishes de­tails on cal­cium in­take and how it af­fects bones. Read­ers can ob­tain a copy by writ­ing: Dr. Roach , Book No. 1104, 628 Vir­ginia Dr., Or­lando, FL 32803, En­close a check or money or­der (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the re­cip­i­ent’s printed name ad­dress. Please al­low four weeks for de­liv­ery.

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