Dairy is a well-known source of calcium, but it's not the only one.
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  • Calcium strengthens your bones and helps your muscles and nerves function.
  • If you're often lethargic, have muscle cramps, or have trouble remembering things, it's possible you have a calcium deficiency.
  • Here are eight signs to watch out for.

Not only does calcium keep your teeth and bones healthy; it also plays a role in the functioning of your muscles, nerves, and heart. You can get it from eating certain foods, like dairy products, seeds, and dark, leafy greens, or from taking a calcium supplement - though some research has found that taking too much calcium in the form of a supplement could raise your risk of heart attacks, possibly because of a lack of vitamin D to absorb it.

Certain populations, including teenagers, older adults, and people who are chronically ill, have a higher risk of developing a calcium deficiency, or hypocalcemia. Here are eight signs to keep an eye out for.

Your fingers get numb or tingly

When you haven't been getting enough calcium, the first symptoms you have might not even be noticeable. Megan Denos, a registered dietitian nutritionist, told INSIDER that numbness or tingling in your fingers can be a sign that your body hasn't been getting enough calcium. She said boosting your intake can start with the food on your plate.

"The best way to get your nutrients is through food, so I would recommend trying to add more calcium-rich foods to your diet before supplementing," Denos said. "If you want to start taking a calcium supplement, talk to your doctor first so they can assess the risks versus benefits and help you decide on the appropriate dose. There have been inconsistent findings regarding whether or not calcium supplementation is linked to cardiovascular events, and the benefits of calcium supplements still remain uncertain."

You have muscle cramps

Natalie Allen, a registered dietitian and a clinical instructor at Missouri State University, told INSIDER that frequent muscle cramps can signal a calcium deficiency and said "consuming chocolate milk after a workout can help prevent cramps and also repair and refuel the muscles."

You have dizzy spells

Ysabel Montemayor, a registered dietitian and the nutrition director at meal-delivery service Fresh n' Lean, said dizziness can be a symptom of "severe calcium deficiency."

You're constantly lethargic

Yoghurt has a lot of calcium.

Denos said a lack of calcium can also lead to lethargy and sluggishness. In fixing your calcium levels, she said to keep in mind that your body can handle only so much at once.

"There is a limit to the amount of calcium that the body can absorb at one time, so it's better to eat small amounts throughout the day as opposed to all at once," she said.

Your bones are weak or soft

"Osteoporosis is a concerning condition, more common in females," Allen said. "This is a process that takes years to occur, but there are few symptoms. Be proactive. Consume dairy, calcium, and do strength training. Of concern in people with osteoporosis are bone fractures, especially as someone ages."

Back pain and getting shorter are among symptoms of weakened bones.

If you don't eat dairy, there are plenty of other foods that are good sources of calcium. Chia, sesame, and other seeds are rich in the mineral, as are sardines, salmon, almonds, fortified foods, and dark, leafy greens.

Bok choy and some other dark, leafy vegetables can provide calcium.
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You have trouble remembering things

Montemayor said memory issues or memory loss can happen if you have a calcium deficiency. This often occurs with feelings of fatigue, according to Medical News Today.

You have seizures or convulsions

Denos said convulsions are a sign of a severe calcium deficiency. The Epilepsy Foundation reported that seizures occur in 20% to 25% of "patients presenting with hypocalcemia as a medical emergency."

You have abnormal heart rhythms

According to Denos, abnormal heart rhythms are a long-term symptom of calcium deficiency. She said that if you're concerned about your calcium levels, you should make sure you're also getting enough vitamin D.

Tuna contains vitamin D.

"It aids the body in calcium absorption," she said. "This is why many dairy products and nondairy milks are fortified with vitamin D. Other sources of vitamin D include fortified orange juice, salmon, tuna, swordfish, eggs, mushrooms, breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D, and, of course, sunlight."

If you're not sure whether you're getting enough calcium or vitamin D or you're concerned, talk to your doctor.

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