Do Calcium Supplements Cause Heart Attacks in Women?

Did you see this worrisome headline? “Older Women Who Take Calcium Supplements to Maintain Bone Strength May have an Increased Risk of Heart Attack.” [1] When we all thought calcium supplements were relatively safe, we now find out that high dosages of calcium supplements may adversely influence vascular health.

Researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand evaluated 1471 healthy post-menopausal women, average age 74, for a period of 5 years. [2] Of them, 732 were given a daily calcium supplement and 739 were given a placebo. Participants received either 1 gram of elemental calcium citrate daily (Citracal) or identical placebo.

They were asked to take two tablets (each containing 200 mg of elemental calcium) before breakfast and three in the evening. Over the next few years, heart attacks were more common in the women taking the calcium supplements.

Based on these results, doctors and patients are now presented with a very difficult challenge. Many women take calcium supplements to try to prevent osteoporosis. But calcium supplements elevate blood calcium levels, possibly accelerating vascular calcification, and leading to heart attacks. At what level of calcium supplement intake do the benefits of osteoporosis prevention or treatment outweigh the possible risks of heart attacks?

As a physician, I would like to see a few more studies regarding the role of calcium supplements and heart attack rate. Perhaps the results of this study were a fluke and other studies will not find the same association. Assuming that there is such an association, recommending calcium supplements for post-menopausal osteoporosis prevention becomes quite difficult.

I don’t have absolute answers on this issue, but, for the time being, a reasonable balance would be to reduce one’s calcium intake from supplements. If you are taking 1200 mg a day, you may wish to drop to 800 or 1000 mg. If you are taking 800 a day, you may wish to drop to 600 mg.

Discuss the results of this study with your doctor. Both of you could come to a mutually satisfying decision regarding the appropriate dosage in your particular case. Until there is clear-cut evidence, it is likely that doctors and researchers will have different opinions on this topic.

  • References
  • 1. Reuters/healthNews.
  • 2. Bolland MJ et al. Brit. Med. J. 2008 Jan 15.

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About the author

author-pictureA world renowned supplement expert, maintains a popular natural healing website at www.RaySahelian.com  where you can read the latest research on natural medicine and supplement research.

Comments

Anonymous's picture
1

Anonymous

I'm 56 and was diagnosed with osteopenia a few years ago. Exercise and calcium supplements were recommended. Although on occasion since then I've had periods where I have taken these calcium supplements pretty regularly, over time something "inside" kept telling me not to. These studies are confirming what I have instinctively been feeling daily (and as a result have stopped taking the supplements): "don't take them, don't take them". I didn't know why I was thinking/feeling this way, but I chose to respect my inner self.

Although I understand that more studies will be needed to prove the link conclusively, I will err on the side of caution. I'd rather break a bone, and in the worst case scenario be disabled to some degree down the road, than to have a heart attack. I will try more exercise and will try eating more calcium-rich foods, but no more suppplements for me.

Anonymous's picture
2

Anonymous

My doctor told me this after I had a donor valve put in. Since it's dead tissue, calcium from milk will also calcify it. I was told to stay away from milk and calcium supplements. Milk does also cause calcification of living tissue too.

Anonymous's picture
3

Anonymous

this study only did calcium, what about a supplement that has magnesium and other things the bones need. maybe the need other minerals/vitamins to not cause the calcifying.

Anonymous's picture
4

Anonymous

hi! im a dietician working in a hospital in the mean time i m having a patient (child- 4 years of age) who is diagnosed with hiv and on TB treatment, she's unconscious therefore we are feeding thru N.G tube.the problem is that this patient has increased heart rate.therefore i will like to know that giving a feed containing calcium will it result in increased heart beat/rate? i will appretiate you answer

Anonymous's picture
5

Sudha

Hi, I am 24. I recently learned that I have calcium deficiency. I wanted to take calcium rich food however my dad bought calcium supplements from a brand that is quite well known where I live(India). Its been few weeks since I started taking these pills.

I understand that post menopausal woman are at a higher risk of being subjected to osteoporosis for which they go for calcium supplements.

1. I want to know whether girls of my age might have similar problems and if yes, am I too young to come across such a physical condition?

2. Should I stop taking my calcium supplements right away?

3. I know its always better to prefer natural intake of calcium rich foods. Please provide me with a gist of calcium rich items.

Please enlighten me with regard to my queries before I can get into serious health issues.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Anonymous's picture
6

Lori

Sudha - as strange as this might seem, a calcium "deficiency" doesn't necessarily mean you don't get enough calcium. In order for our bodies to use calcium appropriately, we need to have plenty of other nutrients like vitamins D3 and K2, and minerals like magnesium, zinc, potassium, strontium and others. This is a good website for women regarding calcium and bone problems:
http://www.womentowomen.com/bone...

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