Do Calcium Supplements Increase Heart Attack Risk?

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in current health articles, Supplements and Health

 

Calcium Confusion

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 cardiovascular-disease

Should you avoid calcium supplements? Do calcium supplements increase heart disease risk? If you’ve been reading some of the recent headlines in magazines, newspapers and current health articles, that’s exactly what you might think.

And, after years of telling us that calcium supplements may be important for bone health, even some doctors are now recommending that their patients avoid calcium supplements. So what’s the truth? What should you believe?

Calcium Confusion

While some headlines and blogs have been telling you to avoid “killer calcium” supplements at all cost, the actual literature on the subject is much more confusing. Some studies claim that taking over 1,000 mg of supplemental calcium is associated with a slight (20-24%) increase in heart attack risk (Bolland et al, BMJ, 341: c3691, 2010; Bolland et al, BMJ 342: d2040, 2011; Xiao et al, JAMA Internal Medicine, 173: 639-646, 2013). Other studies find no association between supplemental calcium intake and heart attack risk or decreased heart attack risk (Lansetmo et al, J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 98: 3010-3018, 2013; Wang et al, Am J Cardiovasc Drugs, 12:105-116, 2012).

Why the confusion? It turns out that most of these studies had some significant limitations – particularly the studies reporting increased heart attack risk. For example:

  • Some studies were too small or the follow-up was too short. As a consequence the total number of cardiovascular deaths was so small that it was difficult to have confidence in small differences between the group supplementing with calcium and the one that was not supplementing.
  • Some of the papers represented a re-analysis of the data from studies that were actually designed to measure whether calcium supplements decreased risk of bone fracture, not whether they increased the risk of cardiovascular death. That is a concern because it means that cardiovascular deaths were not systematically recorded at the time the studies were performed.

And when studies like that are poorly designed, you end up with some pretty bizarre findings. For example:

  • One study reported that calcium supplementation increased the risk of heart attack only in women who were using no calcium supplements prior to the study. A second study by the same authors reported that calcium supplementation increased heart attack risk only women who were taking calcium supplements prior to the study. Obviously, both studies couldn’t be correct.
  • One study has reported that calcium supplementation increases heart attack risk in women, but not in men. Another study reports that calcium supplementation increases heart attack risk in men, but not in women. A third study claims that calcium supplementation reduces cardiovascular death in women, but not in men. Again, all of those studies can’t be true.

Are you confused yet? If so, I have good news for you. The definitive study on calcium supplements and heart attack risk in humans has just been published.

 

Do Calcium Supplements Increase Heart Attack Risk?

A group of scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard University analyzed the relationship between supplemental calcium use and cardiovascular disease in 74,245 women with no previous history of heart disease who were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study (Paik et al, Osteoporosis International, doi: 10.1007/s00198-014-2732-2, 2014). This was a very well designed study that avoided the flaws of the previous studies. For example:

  • There were a large number of women in the study (74,245) and a long follow-up (24 years). As a consequence there were a large number of adverse cardiovascular events (2,709 deaths and 1,856 strokes). This allowed for a very precise statistical comparison of calcium supplement users and non-users.
  • This study was designed to measure cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular deaths
  • This study was also designed to measure calcium intake. In fact, calcium intake was measured every 4 years.

The results were pretty clear cut:

  • Women taking >1,000 mg of supplemental calcium/day had an 18% decrease in cardiovascular deaths.
  • Women taking >1,000 mg of supplemental calcium/day had a 29% decrease in cardiovascular disease.
  • When they looked at total calcium intake (dietary and supplemental) women consuming >2,000 mg/day had an 18% decrease in cardiovascular deaths compared to women consuming <500 mg/day (about the average dietary intake for American women).
  • It didn’t make any difference whether the women were at high or low risk of heart disease (smokers versus non-smokers, high blood pressure versus normal blood pressure, high cholesterol versus normal cholesterol, heart healthy diet or poor diet, pre- or post-menopause, etc)
  • It also didn’t make any difference if the women started supplementing with calcium during the last 4 years of the study or had been supplementing with calcium for 24 years. The results were essentially the same.

 

The Bottom Line

1)     You can ignore the “Killer Calcium” headlines and the warnings that taking calcium supplements will increase your risk of heart disease. The definitive study for women has just been published, and it shows that >1,000 mg/day of supplemental calcium reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease by 29% and cardiovascular death (primarily heart attacks) by 18%.

2)     The definitive study for men has not yet been published, but it is likely that the results will be similar to those for women.

3)     On the other hand, there is clear evidence that calcium intake in the 1000 to 1300 mg per day range (the current RDA recommendations) decreases the risk of osteoporosis, and osteoporosis can significantly decrease quality of life and even lead to increased mortality. Most people aren’t getting enough calcium in their diet. For these people appropriate calcium supplementation is clearly advantageous.

4)     Finally, as I discuss in my book “The Myths of the Naysayers” (available for free to subscribers of “Health Tips From the Professor”), some poorly designed calcium supplements could indeed have the potential to increase heart disease risk. My recommendation is to make sure that your calcium supplement contains 800 to 1200 IU of vitamin D per day plus RDA levels of the other nutrients needed for bone formation (vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese).

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

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Comments (4)

  • Helen

    |

    Thank you for this professional and timely information you provide. Most appreciative of your work and effort.

    How does one get your book re: Naysayers?

    HTG

    Reply

    • Dr. Steve Chaney

      |

      Dear Helen,

      When you go to http://www.healthtipsfromtheprofessor.com and register to receive my health tips on a weekly basis you will receive an email with instructions on how to receive your free Naysayers eBook.

      Dr. Chaney

      Reply

  • sharry zacharia

    |

    Thank you for clearing the confusion on CA intake and heart disease.

    Reply

  • Mary Ahrens

    |

    thank you Dr. Chaney for simplifying the results for each of these studies! It’s incredibly helpful!

    Reply

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Latest Article

Relieve Hip Pain After Sitting or Driving

Posted June 20, 2017 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Relief is Just a Few Movements Away!

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

relieve hip pain after sittingI’m on a long business trip, speaking and teaching in Tennessee and New York, and the drive from Sarasota, FL meant many hours of driving over several days.  One of my stops was to visit with Suzanne and Dr. Steve Chaney at their home in North Carolina.  It was that long drive that became the inspiration for this blog.

After all those hours of driving, my hip was really sore. It was painful to stand up. While talking to Suzanne and Dr. Chaney I was using my elbow to work on the sore area, and when we were discussing the blog for this month it only made sense to share this technique with you.  So, Dr. Chaney took pictures and I sat at his computer to write.  I thought others may want to how to relieve hip pain after sitting or driving for long periods.

What Causes Anterior Hip Pain?

As I’ve mentioned in posts in the past, sitting is the #1 cause of low back pain, and it also causes anterior hip pain (pain localized towards the front of the hip) because the muscles (psoas and iliacus) pass through the hip and insert into the tendons that then insert into the top of the thigh bone.  When hip pain reliefyou try to stand up, the tight muscle tendons will pull on your thigh bone.  The other thing that happens is the point where the muscle merges into the tendon will be very tight and tender to touch. You aren’t having pain at your hip or thigh bone, but at the muscular point where the muscle and tendon merge.

It’s a bit confusing to describe, but you’ll find it if you sit down and put your fingers onto the tip of your pelvis, then just slide your fingers down toward your thigh and out about 2”. The point is right along the crease where your leg meets your trunk.

The muscle you are treating is the Rectus Femoris, where it merges from the tendon into the muscle fibers.  Follow this link, thigh muscle, to see the muscle and it will be a bit easier to visualize.

You need to be pressing deeply into the muscle, like you’re trying to press the bone and the muscle just happens to be in the way.  Move your fingers around a bit and you’ll find it.

Easy Treatment for Anterior Hip Pain After Sitting

relieve hip painHere is an easy treatment for hip pain after sitting you can administer yourself.  First, sit as I am, with your leg out and slightly turned.

Find the tender point with your fingers and then put your elbow into it as shown.

It’s important to have your arm opened so the point of your elbow is on top of the spasm.  It’s a bit tricky, but if you move about a bit you’ll come on to it, and it will hurt.  Keep the pressure so it’s tolerable, not excruciating.

After you have worked on this point for a few minutes you can move to the second part of the treatment.

hip pain treatmentPut the heel of your “same-side” hand onto your thigh as close to the spasm as you can get.  Lift up your fingers so the pressure is only on the heel of your hand.  You can use your opposite hand to help give more pressure.

Press down hard and deeply slide down the muscle, going toward your knee.  You can also kneed it like you would kneed bread dough, really forcing the muscle fibers to relax.

I’m putting in a picture from a previous blog to explain how you can also treat this point of your rectus femoris by using a ball on the floor.

As shown in this picture, lie on the floor with the ball on your hip muscle, and then slightly turn your body toward the floor so the ball rolls toward the front of your body. You may need to move the ball down an inch or so to get to your Rectus Femoris.

When you feel the pain, you’re on the muscle.  Just stay there for a minute or so, and if you want you can move so the ball goes along the muscle fibers all the way to your knee.

pain free living book coverIt may be a challenge to find this point, but it’s well-worth the effort!

In my book, Treat Yourself to Pain Free Living, I teach how to treat all the muscles that cause pain from your head to your feet.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

julie donnelly

About The Author

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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