The Role of Calcium in the Respiratory System

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About Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, and has a wide range of important purposes. It is crucial for bone health, muscle contraction, blood vessel function, hormone and enzyme function, and nervous system function. All of these purposes require that the body maintain adequate levels of calcium without storing too much of the mineral. Calcium homeostasis, or the maintenance of correct body calcium levels, is therefore just as important as the actual functions of this essential mineral.

Almost all of the body’s calcium is stored in teeth and bones. These undergo a process of continual remodeling and renewal, which keeps teeth and bones strong, and helps maintain proper levels of calcium in other parts of the body such as the muscles and blood. When calcium levels drop in the blood or muscles, some of the calcium in bones is released to be used in other parts of the body. If blood calcium levels are too high, excess calcium is deposited in bones.

Calcium and the Respiratory System & Circulatory System

Calcium is important for respiratory system function in the same way that calcium is important for the function of all cells. The role of calcium in universal body mechanisms such as cell signaling and enzyme activity means this mineral is an essential part of the respiratory system.

One of the most important links between calcium and the respiratory system is that calcium is important in muscle contraction and blood vessel structure. Calcium is a cell signaling mineral, which means it plays a role in cell-to-cell communication. This type of communication allows muscles, including the heart, to contract and release. It also allows blood vessels to relax or constrict, affecting the pumping of blood and oxygen throughout the body.

These functions are crucial parts of the respiratory system for many reasons.

  • Contraction and expansion of muscles allows the lungs to breathe in and out. Calcium is crucial for muscle movement, and is important in regulating an individual’s breathing rhythm

  • Calcium and potassium cell-signaling channels are an important regulatory part of the respiratory system, breathing rhythm, and the body’s response to insufficient oxygen levels

  • Enzyme and protein interactions in the lungs are important in oxygen exchange, the process in which oxygen molecules are absorbed into the bloodstream

  • Efficient blood vessel allows the heart to pump blood and oxygen around the body


DR McCrimmon, GF Alheid, K Ptak, PA Gray, G Zummo, S Escobar, and JL Feldman. Distribution of calcium binding proteins, sodium channels and persistent sodium current in the rat ventral respiratory group. Respiratory Research 2001, 2 (Suppl 1): 2.2

John M. Bissonnette. The role of calcium-activated potassium channels in respiratory control. Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology. Volume 131, Issues 1-2, July 2002, Pages 145-153

National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium

Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center: Calcium