Print This Page

Calcium Supplements Boost Chance of Heart Problem

  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Not Helpful ..... Very Helpful
Was this information helpful? Average rating: 4.5/5 (118 votes)
What do you think? Click the stars to vote!
If you have more to say, post a comment below!

Taking calcium supplements may increase the possibility of a heart attack or stroke. When this finding first surfaced last year, many doctors argued that the increased risk applied only to calcium supplements alone, without vitamin D. A new analysis, however, shows that calcium supplements may cause problems even when paired with vitamin D. The researchers analyzed data from 16,700 women in the Women's Health Initiative and examined how many of them were already taking calcium supplements at the outset. In this study, women were not required to stop taking the vitamins and minerals they were already using.

Those who had not been taking calcium but were randomized to take 1,000 mg calcium and 400 IU vitamin D during the study had a 13 to 22 percent higher chance of a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem during the study. The researchers then analyzed data from other studies and found a consistent pattern. They suggest a re-evaluation of the use of calcium and vitamin D supplements, given that their analysis throws the safety of this widespread practice into question.

[BMJ, online April 19, 2011]

  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Not Helpful ..... Very Helpful
Was this information helpful? Average rating: 4.5/5 (118 votes)
What do you think? Click the stars to vote!
If you have more to say, post a comment below!

32 Comments

| Leave a comment

Again, the study seems to be one step behind new research--calcium and vitamin D still may not be enough. I've been reading lately that Vitamin K2 is important in delivering the calcium directly to the bones, instead of allowing it to go to other areas of the body.

I found this very interesting and would like to know who performed the study, how long it lasted and when it was completed. I take calcium and have PAC & PVCS. The Bystolic I was prescribed gives me leg cramps, and night sweats. I would add more calcium from food if I could get off the meds. Take 2.5 mg. daily.

I have to take a prescription vitamin with calcium, Vitamin D, Folate and several of the B vitamins because I have Crohn's disease. Because of the Crohn's I can no longer absorb some of these vitamins on my own. I have noticed on lab tests that both my calcium levels and my Vitamin D levels are on the high side, with the Vitamin D outside the norm a bit. I'm wondering if this vitamin presents the same risk as the other calcium supplements.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: WHAT THE RESEARCHERS FOUND, WHEN THEY ANALYZED THE DATA FROM THE WOMEN'S HEALTH INITIATIVE, WAS THAT VITAMIN D DID NOT REVERSE THE DANGER FROM CALCIUM. THEY DID NOT FIND THAT IT POSED A DANGER ON ITS OWN.

My 85YO mother had a stroke 2 years ago. She is in a wheelchair and also has dementia. She lives in a nursing home, and I am her health care surrogate. The home is supposed to check with me before adding or changing her meds, but they seldom do this. So when I visit I always check her chart.

In February I noticed that she was on calcium supplements and had a dx of osteoporosis. I remembered reading about calcium risk last summer on this website.

I knew that she had not been given a bone density test. I asked to speak with the DON. He confirmed that she had not been tested.

I asked him to take mom off the calcium, explaining that calcium increases the risk of strokes. He said "I never heard that," and transferred me to mom's doctor.
I asked the Dr how he had dxed her without a test. He got annoyed and replied "one of the nurses must have written that, I didn't." I asked him to discontinue the calcium and explained my reasoning.

He said it was preventative, and that "all good doctors tell all their post-menopausal patients to take calcium supplements." I told him this was not true, and asked again that he take her off the calcium because she had already had a stroke, and I was more worried about a second stroke than about a fall.

He said "her blood calcium levels are fine, she isn't going to have a stroke." I replied that they had been fine 2 years ago too, and added that "if they are fine that means her bones are not leaching calcium into her blood, so it is unlikely that she has osteoporosis." He became very angry and said that he would comply with my wishes "but if anything happens to her, YOU are responsible!"

I won that battle, but now the nursing home wont give me copies of moms blood tests unless I make a written request through medical records, and pay $2 a page. I can deal with that pettiness if it means mom isn't taking calcium.

what about drinking hard water?

Thank you for the info on Calcium and Vitamin-D however, I'm perplexed now. I take 1200 mg of Calcium daily plus 5000 iu of D-3 and have been happy with this dosage. I am a 65 year old healthy, active female who does not take any prescribed medication but take a number of supplements which I am convinced is a testament to good health. I do not have any heart problems and do not want to develop any, now question if I should continue my Calcium regimen. Please advise!

One concern is that 400IU vitamin D is no longer considered an appropriate dosage. Most medical literature now recommends 800 to 1000IU daily supplement for adults. Numerous studies have indicated that many mid to older adults are significantly deficient in vitamin D levels.

It is true, however, that Calcium alone has no value in treatment of osteoporosis and deficiency is relatively rare as it is available in many foods. And, of course, resorption of calcium is highly dependent on sufficient vitamin D serum levels.

Magnesium is incredibly important also.

Boy, after all the years of hype over the importance of taking Ca++ and Vitamin D for bone health, these studies are scary as hell. We need more conclusive research and discussion FAST.

But 400 IU vitamin D is no longer considered the recommended RDA, right? Seems like this study may not tell us much, at least for those of us who have followed the latest on vitamin D and are now using two or three times the old standard of 400 IU, or even more. I sure hope someone hurries up and conducts a study comparing the risks with VARIOUS dosages of calcium, with or without VARIOUS dosages of vitamin D.

I'm wondering if you can cite some studies with Vitamin K included, as I read that it will help in removing the calcium from the blood vessel walls that is a cause of atherosclerosis. And that it helps "sort out" safe places for excess calcium.

This is interesting. As it states women's data was examined, I wonder about men. Several years ago, my Rheumatologist recommended I take 600 mg calcium and 400 IU vitamin D. I taken D3 for over a year. Last year a new primary care doctor asked what meds, vitamins, supplements, etc., I was on and when I mentioned the calcium and D3, she said good. Would this study apply to men also?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: WE DON'T KNOW.

Does this mean you shouldn't take ANY Calcium Supplements or is their a limit?

Would like to know more about this important study! After having 3.50 of my parathyroids taken out and a total thyroidectomy I am required to take large doses of calcium and vitamin D every day.

So do I now worry about having a heart attack rather than more cancer? I almost wish they would stop some of these studies since they change their findings so frequently after a few years.

I had chemo and radiation three years ago. As a result my bone density levels dropped significantly. I was told to increase my intake of calcium supplements (with Vit D) but now after reading the reports, I hesitate to take them. One doctor said my density level is fairly low osteopenia so I should consider using Aclasta. Is this any safer? I know it is extremely expensive. I can't get calcium from my diet as I am on a very strict colitis diet due to radiation damage to my small intestine.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: ACLASTA IS ZOLEDRONIC ACID, KNOWN IN THE US AS ZOMETA. IT IS GIVEN ONCE A YEAR AS AN INFUSION. IT IS IN THE CATEGORY OF DRUGS CALLED BISPHOSPHONATES.

IT PROBABLY WILL INCREASE BONE DENSITY BUT YOU MIGHT WANT TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR IF THERE WOULD BE ANY HARM IN WAITING UNTIL YOUR NEXT BONE DENSITY TEST. LONG-TERM USE OF BISPHOSPHONATES CAN HAVE SOME SIDE EFFECTS THAT ARE UNDESIRABLE. BE SURE TO DISCUSS THEM WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE YOU AGREE.

several years ago I was suffering with fast heart rate palpitations. My doctor was puzzled by this. The next day after my visit to his office his nurse called me on the phone and told me that the doctor wanted me to start taking 450Mg of Magnesium. I started taking it and two days later my fast palpitations stopped. I am still taking the Magnesium as prescribed by my doctor and feeling fine.

Have there been any studies of heart and Vitamin D alone without calcium supplements?

My wife takes calcium and vit D but she takes extra vit D because her vit D is below normal 32-100 limits. I also take 3000 units of vit D to stay in the same normal range also, but no extra calcium except for an occasional tums after a meal.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: HERE'S THE LATEST SUMMARY OF THE RESEARCH ON VITAMIN D AND HEART HEALTH: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21519252

Why are there few to no responses to all the questions raised & posted in response to the topics on People's Pharmacy?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: WHEN WE HAVE ANSWERS, WE TRY TO POST THEM. A LOT OF QUESTIONS DON'T HAVE DEFINITIVE ANSWERS.

I think most people really don't know the answer--

For as long as I have been reading this Forum it seems to me that people just give their own experiences and what happened to them PERSONALLY--- and don't know what kind of effect it would happen to other people.

Isn't this what this forum is about? People asking and responding to items pertinent to what their doctors tell them as compared to studies as published here that seem to suggest otherwise? I'm continuing my Calcium and D3 until a doctor tells me otherwise. I still find this article informative as it might also pertain to me even if the study mentions women.

Yes, any information out here should be vetted by information from other sources. Home remedies can work quite well, but not for everyone. Remember though that prescription meds only have to beat a placebo, but seldom a head to head test with other meds. And we know that placebos work for about 30% of the test group.

Also many home remedies can interact with your current meds. Even grapefruit amplifies statins, and other drugs while it mutes other drugs.

While many doctors are skeptical of home remedies, many more doctors now accept that they work for some folks. Blood pressure meds abound, but many cause side effects and a patient may have to try several to get one without side effects. Doctors touted hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms for decades but not anymore.

One of my brothers and I cannot tolerate Lipitor, but the other brother has no problem.

So in summary I will stick in my favorite quip: "Medical advice should be treated like nuclear disarmament, TRUST BUT VERIFY!! Listen to the doctor, take notes, research your meds, and stay educated. The Peoples Pharmacy is a great place to start your education.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: WE LIKE THE MOTTO, TRUST BUT VERIFY!

Several months ago I did read how supplementing with Calcium caused greater risk of untoward events (and it was probably this cardiac thing.) As a post-"M" (don't like to say the word) female who practices extreme sports and who's already broken some 22 bones in sports accidents, I think it's important to take calcium and began to research this.

Bottom line: I was told that IF the calcium in the supplement was from "whole food" sources, then it should be just fine and wouldn't produce the negative effects. So I got some Natural Food-Based Calcium with Magnesium and Vitamin D, and have felt safe ever since. Hope I was given the correct info!

Cindy B., I am curious. When you say "Natural Food-Based Calcium with Magnesium and Vitamin D," do you mean some sort of nutritional food product? Or do you mean you consume foods that contain these nutrients? If a nutritional food product, can you describe it further? What makes it a food rather than supplement?

I do take calcium supplements, and am beginning to worry about it. Seems clear that getting more of our calcium from food is a good idea. But I find it difficult to get high-calcium foods into my diet (consume no grains, dislike greens, avoid low-fat milk products, not a big fan of sardines...). I would be interested to know if there is a palatable calcium food product out there.

All the studies seem to be on calcium and D. My holistic MD in 1975 told me to use
calcium/magnesium ratio 2 to 1. We cannot utilize calcium efficiently without
magnesium, and my preference is capsule form, more of a guarantee of breaking it down.

Oscal, the recommended pill of Drs. and various others are hard as rocks, who needs that? Most calcium pills have minimal amounts of magnesium, if any. The heart needs magnesium to relax in between beats. One of my friends was in pain from her heart and all the pills gave her terrible headaches and pressure. One 400 mg magnesium pill (in gelatin capsule form) relieved the pain. Her cardiologist said to thank me for suggesting it, he forgot to mention it!!!! Magn. can be hard on your stomach, I take it with food.

PS: almonds are said to have magnesium in them, I sometimes crave them and when my friend was out of Prilosec (chewable) chewing up some almonds relieved the acid pain.

My heart goes out to you, k as I have been in a similar situation w/ my mother.
Health care for the elderly is so scary -- and I think will continue to degrade, so that when it is our turn........ well, walking into the desert may be a better solution than the suffering imposed by "helpers".

At 65, I find Drs. already arrogant and unable to accept questions.
I send you strength and good luck.

I was told that at 35 - my Vit. D was good.

Other Dr. said should be 50?

HOW is one to ever know?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: THERE IS CONSIDERABLE CONTROVERSY ABOUT THE OPTIMUM BLOOD LEVEL FOR VITAMIN D, BUT IT APPEARS YOUR LEVEL IS WITHIN A SAFE RANGE.

I am so confused also!..... and just purchased vit D at 2000 iu.
Any info---please share immediately.

Always read calcium good for muscles -- heart being a muscle ....how much is needed?

ca++ should be taken in divided doses in a 2:1 ratio with mg++. it should also be taken with vit d3 & k2 (new evidence - doctoroz.com). the divided dosage is needed because the body does not absorb the entire amount of the minerals each time they are taken.

another consideration is that ca++/mg++/d3 should be taken separately from other meds & supplements because the ca++ can interfere with the absorption of some meds, supplements & foods.

It would be appreciated if you wrote in standard english. Your post looks more like a math equation. While it makes sense to your the rest of us don't really understand what you posted. Thanks.

I take calcium supplement that is: Vitamin D-3 800 IU(200%), Calcium 1000mg (100%), and Magnesium 500 mg (125%)
Is this safe to use?

People's Pharmacy response: It should be fine.

I can no longer take calcium. Even eating one pudding dries my lips up immediately. I have had two major events from taking calcium supps. The first one was calcium stones and I was so plugged up with "rooting food" (poop) etc, that it took 6 weeks for it to finally clear. A year later I tried it again. Bad idea, I got hives all over my face and it left one spot (circular) that can be seen if you are really looking. I didn't need more wrong with my face! It also really dries the skin, so it is NOT for me going into the bones only but to places in amounts I don't need.

Drinking milk will give me excema on my face in patches, and thick skin under my eye brows. It also makes me super tired and I can feel the taughtness in my arm veins from the calcium. Actually the whole milk with more fat will do this a lot less. If I add chocolate to the milk this counters the chalkiness of the calcium in it and I'm okay.

I have never been diagnosed, but I suspect I have a parathyroid problem as I have researched this on the web, but I don't know. All I know is I'm fine when I don't take the supps and limit it otherwise. Even Lysine tablets can cause me some of these problems with just too much dryness and lack of moisture.

The best way for me to get Vit D is sitting in the sun even thru a window (they say you cant get it that way but I do) and can feel the results in the skin. (Proper moisture) Also too much citrus causes me these same problems. All of these things I mentioned that cause problems are drying to the body. Mine cant handle that anymore. Thanx for listening, and hope this helps some from my experiences.

Leave a comment

Share your comments or questions with the People's Pharmacy online community. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from other visitors to this web site should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical attention. Concerns about medications should be discussed with a health professional. Do not stop any medication without first checking with your physician.

Check this box to be notified by email when follow-up comments are posted.