If you’re one of the millions of people taking calcium pills every day, you may have heard that calcium pills cause heart attacks. Although that’s not entirely true, there are studies that link diets high in calcium with a greater risk of heart disease.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, calcium is a mineral that is necessary for life. In addition to building bones and keeping them healthy, calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, and our heart to beat. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth. But as we age, we lose calcium and when we don’t get enough, your body will take it from your bones.
So, let’s take a look at the latest studies on calcium and find out if calcium pills cause heart attacks and if these pills are detrimental to your heart health.
A study from the National Institutes of Health found that men who took calcium supplements did increase their risk of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases. But other studies suggest that both men and women who take calcium supplements have a higher risk of heart disease.
Another study found people who had high calcium intake had less — not more — calcification in their coronary arteries. But that was mostly true for people who got calcium from their meals, rather than pills. There were hints that supplements might increase calcium deposits in the arteries.
And according to Johns Hopkins researchers, multiple studies have found that there's little to no benefit to taking calcium supplements for the prevention of hip fractures.
Getting your calcium from food also gets other beneficial nutrients into your body. Also, calcium supplements can cause constipation and may raise your risk of kidney stones.
You can meet your daily requirement with about three daily servings of calcium-rich foods, including milk, calcium-fortified juice and leafy greens.
The amount of calcium you need every day depends on your age and sex.
Age 50 & younger 1,000 mg daily
Age 51 & older 1,200 mg daily
Age 70 & younger 1,000 mg daily
Age 71 & older 1,200 mg daily
Dr. JoAnn Manson, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital says, "There is no clear association between calcium supplements and the risk of heart attack or stroke."
She adds that the link between bone health and heart health may explain why calcium supplement users appear to have a higher risk of heart disease. Osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease have many shared risk factors, including smoking, lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet.
She also advises people who are suffering from heart disease or at risk of heart attack to consult a doctor before taking calcium supplements. If you need advice on calcium supplements and their effects on heart health, you can consult one of our doctors.
If you’re taking calcium pills and are wondering about the effects they may have on your heart health, make an appointment to see your doctor and get your heart checked. Our guide “Cardiology Tests That Are Helping Hearts Stay Healthy” is a great place to start. One of the tests is the coronary calcium test that can predict your heart attack risk for up to 10 years.