Calcium’s Complicated Relationship with Heart Health

There is conflicting research about calcium’s role in heart health. Some studies have found that calcium supplements, often taken to prevent or treat bone diseases, can increase the risk of heart attacks. Other studies have found no increased risk. New research has found that calcium can aid cholesterol levels. So, what should be your healthy approach?

Finding a healthy routine often requires balance. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing! And what’s right for one person might not be suitable for another. We always say that you shouldn’t take supplements without consulting a doctor. That’s true for calcium supplements; if you have a healthy calcium level in your body, you might be increasing it dangerously. However, as we said, the research is still inconclusive as to whether it does increase heart attack risks and to what degree. Calcium supplements increase calcium levels in your blood which could, potentially, add to plaque buildup. But that hasn’t been proven.

Research shows that calcium can lower cholesterol by binding to it in the small intestine before it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. One gram of calcium can raise HDL (or “good”) cholesterol by up to five percent and lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol by up to six percent. The daily recommended amount of calcium is 1,000-1,300 milligrams.  

It is possible to get all of your calcium through diet. And dietary calcium has not been linked to heart problems. Dairy, soybeans, wheat, leafy greens, salmon, figs and beans are all great sources of calcium. They can help you reach your daily value without going overboard and help you get variety into your diet.

In addition to helping cholesterol levels, calcium can help blood vessel health and keep them supple. But that benefit has only been seen with dietary calcium, not with supplements. That’s another heart-healthy reason to add more calcium-rich foods to your meals. That can lead to lower blood pressure. Calcium also supports bone health and cellular function while decreasing your risk for kidney stones.

While the jury might be out on calcium supplements’ influence over heart attack risks, there isn’t a question about eating calcium-rich foods. It is possible to eat too much calcium. But having a diet with plenty of calcium-rich foods is healthy and helps your cholesterol levels, and aids blood vessels, as well as so many other aspects of your health. Bodies are complicated, and so much of wellness is interconnected. If you take, or are considering taking, a calcium supplement, you may want to speak to your doctor about this research. But enjoying milk, leafy greens and other great foods should be part of your healthy diet!   

Banner image: Engin Akyurt via Unsplash
July 30, 2021

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