Calcium buildup can occur in various places throughout the body, including in soft tissue, tendons and joints. There's not much you can do to prevent certain types of deposit. Calcium buildup is generally not linked to dietary calcium intake.
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Joint calcification is actually a local process that is not influenced by calcium intake. If you're worried about calcium buildup, speak with your doctor for recommendations. Chances are, she won't recommend limiting your calcium intake to prevent calcium deposits.
If you're worried about joint calcification, chat with your doctor. Some common causes of calcium buildup are injury, inflammation or another type of physical stress. One potential way to lower your risk of joint calcification is to ensure you're not overdoing it during sports or workouts — doing your best to avoid overuse injuries.
What Are Calcium Deposits?
Synovial fluid is a viscous substance that helps lubricate certain joints in your body. Harvard Health explains that both synovial fluid and the cartilage that lines your joints contain calcium and that calcium can crystallize into shards. These shards, Harvard says, can erode the surfaces of your joints and trigger the breakdown of cartilage.
The Mayo Clinic says that calcium pyrophosphate deposition disease (CPPD), also called pseudogout, is a type of joint calcification linked to calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystals in joints. These crystals can cause swollen, warm-to-the-touch joints that are extremely painful. This commonly affects your knees, but can also be seen in the wrists and elbows.
There is no definitive cure for CPPD, but your doctor may suggest over-the-counter painkillers or prescription-strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Another condition linked to calcium buildup is myositis ossificans. This condition, where bony material actually forms inside muscle tissue, is usually triggered by an injury. Myositis ossificans can cause a lump inside the muscle, which may be painful when you press it.
In most instances, the condition will resolve on its own, though this can take a number of months. If it doesn't disappear, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove it.
Other Types of Calcium Deposits
Calcium buildup can occur in various places throughout the body, including in soft tissue. Harvard Health estimates that 50 percent of women over age 50 have calcium buildup in their breast tissue, as do 10 percent of younger women.
Breast calcifications do not cause symptoms, and most people become aware of them only when they appear as white specks or dots on a mammogram. According to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, most calcifications are benign. However, some breast calcifications indicate a very early type of breast cancer — ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). DCIS can develop into invasive breast cancer later on.
Another form of calcium buildup is calcific tendonitis. This happens when calcium builds up on your tendons (the cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones), sometimes prompted by an injury or overuse of certain tendons, such as in the shoulders of those who frequently play racquet sports.
In many cases, calcific tendonitis will resolve over time. If it doesn't, treatment options include painkillers, physical therapy, shock-wave therapy to break down the calcium buildup, a lavage treatment to "flush out" the deposits and, in extremely severe cases, surgery.
How to Prevent Calcium Deposits
In atherosclerosis, a condition where plaque builds up on the inside of your arteries, the plaque is made of fat, cholesterol and calcium. For a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in October 2016, researchers analyzed data from 5,448 women ages 45 to 84 who had no history of cardiovascular disease.
After a 10-year period, they found that people who took calcium supplements were more likely to develop coronary artery calcification, while people who had a calcium-rich diet (from eating foods containing calcium, not supplements) actually had a lower risk. As such, loading your diet with calcium may actually prevent calcium buildup in your arteries.
Foods that contain a lot of calcium include fortified cereals, cheese, yogurt, milk, soybeans, kale, spinach, mustard greens and fish with bones (like salmon and sardines).
An increase of dietary calcium can also help protect you from calcium deficiency. The Cleveland Clinic explains that, if you don't get enough calcium from your diet, your body will start to leech stored calcium from your bones. This can contribute to a decrease in bone mass, which puts you at risk for osteoporosis. Plus, a calcium deficiency is linked to high blood pressure.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone mass. The condition puts you at an increased risk for broken bones, which can cause a number of complications (especially in senior patients). If you do have osteoporosis, your doctor can prescribe medications to treat it. They may also suggest increasing calcium intake.
Recommended Calcium Intake
Calcium plays a number of crucial roles in the body. As well as strengthening bones and teeth, it is required for such things as muscle function, nerve transmission and secreting hormones. As such, the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies set a daily recommended intake that depends on your age and sex:
- 200 milligrams per day for infants up to 6 months old
- 260 milligrams per day for babies ages 7 to 12 months
- 700 milligrams per day for children ages 1 to 3
- 1,000 milligrams per day for children ages 4 to 8
- 1,300 milligrams per day for children ages 9 to 13
- 1,300 milligrams per day for teens ages 14 to 18
- 1,000 milligrams per day for adults ages 19 to 50
- 1,000 milligrams per day for men ages 51 to 70
- 1,200 milligrams per day for women ages 51 to 70
- 1,200 milligrams per day for adults ages 71 and over
- 1,300 milligrams per day for pregnant and breastfeeding teens* 1,000 milligrams per day for pregnant and breastfeeding adults
- Harvard Health: "Calcium Beyond the Bones"
- Mayo Clinic: "Pseudogout"
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Atherosclerosis"
- Journal of the American Heart Association: "Calcium Intake From Diet and Supplements and the Risk of Coronary Artery Calcification and its Progression Among Older Adults: 10‐Year Follow‐up of the Multi‐Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)"
- Beth Israel Lahey Health: "High-Calcium Diet"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Increasing Calcium in Your Diet"
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: "What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Osteoporosis Treatment: Medications Can Help"
- BreastCancer.org: "Understanding Breast Calcifications"
- Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: "What Are Breast Calcifications and Do They Turn Into Cancer?"
- Beth Israel Lahey Health: "Calcific Tendonitis of the Shoulder"
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Calcium"
- Harvard Health: "Myositis"