Calcium and Increased Risk for Heart Attacks

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • Milk is good for the bones – right? Because milk is a good source of calcium and calcium promotes bone strength. Which means you may think a calcium supplement is an even better way to protect your bones – right?


    A new report in the journal Heart, has determined calcium supplements are putting people at greater risk for heart attacks.


    Researchers followed 23,980 individuals ranging in age from 35 to 64 years-old over an 11 year period. They saw an 86% increased risk of heart attack for those regularly supplementing calcium. Participants supplementing calcium only were twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to those not taking any vitamin supplements.

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    Research to date has overall supported an inverse relationship between dietary calcium and disease. For example, higher calcium intakes have been linked to reduced high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Therefore, you would think, the higher your calcium intake the lower your risk for a heart attack.


    Calcium supplements are frequently recommended to the elderly and post-menopausal women for bone health. However, there has been no strong evidence linking calcium supplementation to cardiovascular benefits. In fact, some recent research (such as the study I’m sharing in this article) has raised concerns regarding calcium increasing heart attack risk.


    The aim of this particular study published in the journal Heart was to prospectively examine the association between dietary calcium in total (dairy sources, non-dairy sources, and calcium supplements) with heart attack and stroke risk, as well as overall cardiovascular disease mortality.


    Study results did not find a decrease in cardiovascular risk linked to calcium, except for a moderately higher dairy calcium intake. This means potential decreased cardiovascular risk if you obtain your calcium from dairy sources, not supplements or non-dairy calcium sources. This may indicate there is another nutrient in dairy that is linked to the reduction in cardiovascular events, not just calcium itself.


    As I stated above, the study found heart attack risk to potentially be significantly increased for those who supplement calcium. “Potentially” because more research is always needed. Particularly since these findings are contrary to the vast majority regarding calcium benefits to date.


    I don’t recommend you discontinue your calcium supplement if prescribed by your doctor. I do recommend you be aware of all supplements/medications you take and the potential pros/cons of each. Discuss fully with your doctor so the two of you together can determine the best treatment plan for your health situation.


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Published On: May 24, 2012