A few weeks ago I worked with an individual taking drastic steps to lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk. One of the changes she made was to cut dairy intake. I was concerned about this approach and why she believed this was an appropriate step to lower cholesterol levels. I want to make sure you’re not confused about the role of dairy and calcium when it comes to heart health, specifically lowering blood pressure.
The link between calcium and blood pressure was noticed years ago when researchers realized people drinking hard water had less high blood pressure than those drinking soft water. Hard water contains more minerals, including calcium.
Individuals receiving more than 800 mg of calcium daily have a 23 percent decreased risk of high blood pressure versus those consuming less than 400 mg of calcium per day.
Back in 1996, scientists compiled all the research to date on calcium and high blood pressure. The results showed calcium supplements given to individuals with high blood pressure lowered systolic blood pressure (top number) an average of 4.3 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) 1.5 mm Hg.
Some people respond better to supplemental calcium than others. Those with the best results include African-Americans, elderly, pregnant women, menopausal women, people with salt-sensitivity, individuals with a high sodium intake, and those with Type II diabetes.
For the best results, don’t rely on a supplement alone. Work to increase your intake of calcium containing foods - dairy. To promote heart health, select low fat dairy products, such as low fat milk, cheeses, and yogurts.
Additional calcium sources:
Leafy greens (i.e. kale, collard, turnip, mustard greens)
Calcium fortified Orange Juice
Tofu (if made with calcium carbonate)
For even better results, supplement calcium along with vitamin D. One study supplemented women 1200 mg of calcium to reduce blood pressure. When they added 800 IU of vitamin D, systolic blood pressure decreased an average of 9.3 percent.
The current RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for calcium and vitamin D are:
Adults: 800 mg/day
Perimenopaussal women: 1000 mg/day
Menopausal women: 1600 mg/day
Amount supplement should be based on your vitamin D lab results. The RDA is 200-400 IU, but your needs may be higher. Work with your MD to determine the appropriate level. Due to new research findings, discussions are underway to raise the RDA for Vitamin D.
Don’t forget three other minerals affect how effective calcium - potassium, magnesium, and sodium. For calcium to have the greatest positive effect on blood pressure, your levels of these three nutrients need to be adequate as well.
For additional steps to lower blood pressure, check out the free e-course 7 Naturals Ways to Lower Blood Pressure.
Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.