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Feb 19, 2013

Calcium Supplements May Increase Cardiovascular Risk in Men

While more research is needed, new findings show how calcium supplements could affect heart health in men.

Many of us know that calcium is important for bone health, especially as we age. And since we may not always get enough calcium through our diet, many Americans take dietary supplements to help ensure that they get enough calcium. In fact, as many as 50% of older men and 70% of older women in the United States take supplemental calcium, like through pills or chewable tablets. Although it was once believed that calcium may decrease cardiovascular risk by reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, many experts are now concerned about the negative impact calcium supplements may have on our hearts. Could calcium supplements be hurting our hearts, and increasing risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke?

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the answer is: maybe. This study included more than 388,000 middle-aged men and women, all of whom completed dietary questionnaires in the mid-1990s and were followed for an average of 12 years. What researchers found was that calcium supplements increased risk of death from heart disease in men, but not in women. But the good news? Dietary calcium intake, like through milk and foods, was unrelated to death from heart disease in men and women.

So what should we take away from this study? There is more research needed to fully understand the impact of calcium supplements on heart health. Some studies have shown that getting too much calcium through supplements can increase risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke and even death in both men and women. Other studies have shown that calcium supplements actually lower risk for heart disease. While experts try to figure out exactly how calcium supplementation impacts heart health, a safe alternative to calcium supplements is to get calcium from food. Low-fat dairy foods, beans and green leafy vegetables are a great way to get your calcium and other minerals and vitamins that promote good health. And if you are taking supplements, stick to the recommended daily amounts. Most adults over 19 years of age need 1,000 mg a day of calcium (except for women 51-70 years old who need 1,200 mg/day), and older adults (over 71) need 1,200 mg of calcium a day.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How much calcium do I need?
  • Most adults over 19 years of age need 1,000 mg a day of calcium (except for women 51-70 years old who need 1,200 mg/day), and older adults (over 71) need 1,200 mg daily. See how much calcium you should be getting.

    Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need the same amount of calcium and vitamin D as other women their age.

  • What foods are highest in calcium?
  • There are many foods that contain high levels of calcium. Green vegetables, seeds, nuts, herbs, soy, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products are some of the best sources of dietary calcium.

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