HEART
January 18, 2008

Calcium & Heart Attack in Older Women

Calcium has many health benefits, but for some older women, it can also carry a risk of...

Calcium can help you lose weight. It can help prevent colon cancer. And of course, as Dr. Susan Stewart, TheDoctor's Health expert, points out in "Taking Osteoporosis Out of Your Future," and Dr. John Morley, our Senior Living specialist, discusses in "Strong Bones, Healthy Joints," adequate calcium intake is essential for those at risk for osteoporosis.

High calcium intake might have an adverse effect on vascular health for some women.

New research, however, suggests that there may be a down side to calcium — an increased risk of heart attack for some older women.

Researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand investigated the effect of calcium supplementation on heart attack, stroke and sudden death. Their findings appeared in the January 15th online version of the British Medical Journal.

The study followed 1,471 healthy postmenopausal women 55 years of age or older. The women were divided into two groups. One group was given a daily calcium supplement and the other a placebo. All of the women were monitored every six months for five years.

It turned out that heart attacks were more common in the calcium group. Rates for stroke and sudden death were also higher, although by very little.

Although far from dramatic, according to the authors, these results suggest that high calcium intake might have an adverse effect on vascular health for some women. It is a possibility — to be determined by further study — that women and their doctors will have to balance the value of calcium supplementation for women's bones against the potential increased risk of heart attack.

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