Can Calcium Help Your Heart?

Can Calcium Help Your Heart?

Get our expert's take.

Calcium’s benefits to bone health are well known, but can it help your heart? A South Korean study of nearly 5,000 people, presented at the Endocrine Society’s 2016 meeting suggests it might. Researchers found that older women with higher dietary calcium intake had a lower risk of heart disease.

Calcium’s role in the heart
Calcium plays an important role in heart function at the cellular level, says Chitradeep De, MD, an interventional cardiologist with Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte, Florida. “For the heart to pump, the cells of the heart need calcium,” he says. “Calcium goes out [of the cells], the muscle contracts. Calcium goes in, the muscle relaxes.”

Conflicting research
So, should you up your calcium intake to protect your heart? Not so fast, says Dr. De. “I’m not completely sold that calcium is helpful in preventing heart disease,” he says. “Studies go both ways.”

For example, a 2012 study of nearly 24,000 people found that dietary calcium probably doesn’t help the heart and calcium supplements might actually increase the risk of heart attack. Similar results were seen in a 10-year, 2,700 person study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in October 2016. People who took calcium supplements were 22 percent more likely to have coronary artery calcium. However, people with the highest calcium intake—from both diet and supplements—were 27 percent less likely to develop heart disease than people with the lowest intake. A 2015 meta-analysis, however, found no increased risk of heart disease in elderly women who took calcium supplements.

“Even in [the Endocrine Society] study, there’s a correlation between supplemental calcium and reduced cardiac outcomes, but it’s a loose association, almost saying that calcium could be one of the causes or it could be chance,” says De. “I’m not discounting the relationship, but the data is not there yet.”

De adds that cardiologists don’t recommend increasing your calcium for heart health and the American Heart Association has no guidelines concerning calcium.

Calcium’s proven benefits
Calcium has been shown to increase bone strength and improve bone health.. If you don’t consume enough calcium from food or supplements, your body may pull the calcium it needs from your bones. This weakens the bones and may lead to osteoporosis. Doctors recommend you get between 1,000 and 1,300 mg of calcium per day.

4 better heart boosters
Eating more calcium may not do anything for your heart’s health, but that doesn’t mean what you eat doesn’t affect your heart. These four heart-healthy foods will keep your ticker ticking away.

  1. Fish – The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week. Some fish, notably salmon and sardines, are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which protect against arrhythmia, lower triglycerides and slow the buildup of arterial plaque.
  2. Beans – Beans are packed with protein and nutrient-dense. A 2012 study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that adding beans to a low-glycemic diet reduced coronary heart disease risk in people with diabetes, which itself increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  3. Berries – Not only are they delicious, but berries are also good for your heart. They are thought to reduce inflammation and lower LDL and triglycerides.
  4. Nuts – Nuts are little health bombs. They’re packed with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Walnuts, which are high in omega-3s, are especially good for your heart. Don’t go nuts, though. They might be nutrient-dense but they’re also calorie-dense, so keep it to a handful.

Medically reviewed in September 2018.

The Best BP If You’re Over 75
The Best BP If You’re Over 75
When Chubby Checkers crooned Limbo Rock in 1966 he asked agile folks “How low can you go?…unda the limbo stick.” For limbo queen Shemika Charles the a...
Read More
What is "athlete's heart?"
“Athlete’s heart” is a condition in which the heart may become enlarged and the lower-left chamber o...
More Answers
Don't Go to a Cardiologist Without Knowing This First
Don't Go to a Cardiologist Without Knowing This FirstDon't Go to a Cardiologist Without Knowing This FirstDon't Go to a Cardiologist Without Knowing This FirstDon't Go to a Cardiologist Without Knowing This First
Go in prepared and take control of your heart health.
Start Slideshow
Brenda’s Statin Success Story
Brenda’s Statin Success Story