Most likely your doctor has advised you to take 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day - if you're over 50 - plus vitamin D to protect your bones and help to prevent health related problems like, heart disease, cancer, and many other medical disorders. But did you know that you can take too much calcium (Ca2+) which can cause serious medical disorders? Since 2006 the University of Auckland School of Medicine Foundation has tested women taking calcium - without vitamin D - to see if it raises the risks of heart attacks. What they found was 30% of those tested taking 1 gram of calcium, were more likely to have a heart attack than those taking a inactive placebo. Vitamin D was not included in this study because it is being tested seperately. Many feel that the exclusion of D may play an important role in the occurence of heart attacks, so if this information has you concerned or confused, speak with your doctor about the amount of calcium you take. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, did not mention the safer amount of calcium to take that might stave off these heart problems, so we need to wait for further studies on this question and others, or you can get your physicians' advice. The take away information from this study is calcium rich foods are the safest way to get your daily requirements. Calcium from food is absorbed more slowly and does not produce these heart related problems. There are other medical concerns related to excess calcium, which we discuss below, so it's important to discuss the current RDA on calcium with your doctor to see if you might be taking too much!
One of the main disorders caused by too much calcium is hypercalcemia. Usually hypercalcemia occurs when one or more of your parathyroid glands is over-active, or if you have an adenoma (benign parathyroid tumor). Other common causes of hypercalcemia are: cancer, some medications, taking calcium and vitamin D and other medical disorders, listed below.
How should you take your calcium?
Most of us are told to get the majority of calcium from our diet and then make up the difference of our daily requirements with a supplemental form of this mineral. To calculate this, you'd add up all the calcium in your diet, and then add to that whatever remains to total 1,200 milligrams of supplemental calcium. Your doctor may recommend more, or much less, but this is the calcium recommendations from the National Osteoporosis Foundation for those over 50. Also, to simplify this process, you can get a list from your doctor that helps you to calculate your daily Ca2+ from food. Also discuss this new finding to see if taking a much lower amount of calcium is more beneficial for your heart health to protect against heart attack, stroke and kidney stones among other health problems listed below.
We have many fortified foods now that include Ca2+ and vitamin D, so it's important to know exactly how much you are getting - through your diet - before you add supplements to it so you don't take way over the recommended daily allowance (RDA). We get many questions about Ca2+, and those who are taking a large dose, well over the RDA, are invariably not calculating their dietary intake in addition to their supplement which can get us into some trouble.