Supplements warning: Calcium could increase heart attack risk – take with ‘caution’

Dr Zoe reveals which supplements to take

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When you take calcium supplements, the levels of this mineral in your blood can soar above the normal range. This “flooding effect” might become “ultimately harmful”, according to the research published in the journal Heart. Here are the warning signs to spot.

The advice from the study concluded take with “caution”, as the findings suggested that taking calcium supplement could increase your risk of having a heart attack.

They also challenged previous research, saying that boosting overall calcium intake in your diet could stave off heart disease and stroke.

Previous research linked calcium intake with a lower risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity – all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

The study looked at 24,000 participants aged between 35 and 64.

Their diet for the 12 months before the research was assessed using food frequency questionnaires.

The subjects were also quizzed about their vitamin and mineral supplement intake.

Afterwards, their health was monitored for about 11 years. During this time, there were 354 heart attacks, 260 strokes, and 267 associated deaths.

When analysing supplements, the study found that those who took calcium products regularly had a staggering 86-percent higher risk of a heart attack.

Furthermore, this risk climbed even higher among those who used only calcium supplements.

These participants were “twice” as likely to suffer a heart attack compared to those who didn’t take any supplements.

This could be meaningful for those who get calcium supplements commonly recommended, including elderly people and women who have gone through the menopause.

When the study looked at the participant’s diet, they noticed that diets that contained moderate amounts of the mineral measured at 820mg from all sources had a 31 percent lower risk of a heart attack.

But interestingly, those with an intake of more than 1100mg of calcium daily didn’t have a significantly lower risk.

They concluded that there was no evidence that any level of calcium intake either protected against or increased the risk of stroke.

The authors concluded: “This study suggests that increasing calcium intake from diet might not confer significant cardiovascular benefits, while calcium supplements, which might raise [heart attack] risk, should be taken with caution.

“Calcium supplements have been widely embraced by doctors and the public, on the grounds that they are a natural and therefore safe way of preventing osteoporotic fractures.

“It is now becoming clear that taking this micronutrient in one or two daily [doses] is not natural, in that it does not reproduce the same metabolic effects as calcium in food.”

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

According to the NHS, the main signs include:

  • Chest pain (a feeling of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across your chest)
  • Pain in other parts of the body (arms, jaw, neck, back and tummy)
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling sick or being sick
  • Overwhelming feeling of anxiety
  • Coughing or wheezing.

The chest pain can feel like it’s spreading to your arms (usually the left arm, but it can affect both) or other areas of your body.

As this is a medical emergency, it’s important to call 999 “immediately” if you are suffering from symptoms like these.

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