Like a lot of women my age, I take a calcium supplement everyday. I'm closing in on 40, and my doctor recommended that I take a daily calcium supplement to ward off brittle bones and osteoporosis. But the results of a new study have me questioning this advice.
New research published today in the British Medical Journal, and reported by several media outlets, suggests that calcium supplements might be linked to an increased heart attack risk in post-menopausal women. And while I'm not at that stage yet, I'm not so sure that I want to be taking calcium supplements when I am.
The research used data from the Women's Health Initiative Calcium/Vitamin D Supplementation Study — a seven-year trial on 36,282 postmenopausal women. After analyzing the data from this study, researchers concluded that women who took calcium supplements had a 13-to-22 percent greater risk of having a heart attack than women who did not. The researchers also found a milder increase in stroke risk among women taking the supplements.
"When these results are taken together with the results of other clinical trials of calcium supplements, with or without vitamin D, they strongly suggest that calcium supplements modestly increase the risk of cardiovascular events, particularly myocardial infarction," said Dr. Ian Reid, the lead researcher of the study, in his report. "These data justify a reassessment of the use of calcium supplements in older people."
Dietary intake of calcium was not linked to a heart attack risk, so it might be better for women to look to leafy greens and dairy products to boost their calcium levels instead of supplements. Still, health experts warn that osteoporosis is a huge health concern among post-menopausal women, so women should talk to their health care providers before abandoning calcium supplements altogether. Talk to your doctor to find out if calcium supplements are still the best choice for you. I know I will.