Can Calcium Help Your Heart?

You know getting adequate calcium can boost bone health. Learn whether it could benefit your cardiovascular system, too.

smiling woman eating a small cup of yogurt

Updated on March 15, 2023.

Calcium’s bone health benefits are likely familiar to you, but can the mineral help your heart? Research has produced mixed results, with some studies finding that calcium is protective, and others finding that too much supplementation could do harm. 

So, what’s the story?

The essentials of calcium

Calcium is probably best-known for increasing bone strength and improving 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 may lead to weaker bones and eventually, osteoporosis, a condition characterized by bone density loss.

Experts recommend that most adults get about 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. Once women turn 50, they should increase their intake to about 1,200 mg daily. Men should do the same starting at age 70.

In regard to heart function, calcium plays an important role 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 explains. “Calcium goes out [of the cells], the muscle contracts. Calcium goes in, the muscle relaxes.”

Conflicting research

Does that mean you should raise 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.”

One British study published in 2021 in the European Journal of Epidemiology suggested calcium may be protective. Researchers followed nearly 18,000 people over 20 years and found that women in particular might benefit from taking calcium supplements, as it could lower the risk of death from cardiovascular problems. Also of note, people who used supplements did not have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease or related conditions like cardiac failure or heart attack. 

Their findings echoed the conclusions of a 2016 South Korean study of nearly 5,000 people published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers found that older women with higher dietary calcium intake had a lower risk of heart disease.

Other research, however, has found the opposite. A 2021 meta-analysis published in Nutrients looked at data from 13 studies and concluded that calcium supplements raised the risk of cardiovascular disease by 15 percent in postmenopausal women who were otherwise healthy. 

De notes that even in the Endocrine Society’s 2016 South Korea study, “there’s a correlation between supplemental calcium and reduced cardiac outcomes, but it’s a loose association.” De added, “It’s almost saying that calcium could be one of the causes or it could be chance.”

The answer may be that extra calcium is not categorically good or bad, but that its effect depends on a person’s sex, age, diet, health situation, and risk factors. In a 2021 seminar published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers suggested that it might be best to advise people on how to get their calcium from their diet. What’s more, if more calcium was needed due to bone health concerns, it shouldn’t exceed an additional 500 mg per day.  

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

4 better heart boosters

Getting more calcium may or may not boost your heart’s health, but what you eat still affects your heart. Try these four heart-healthy foods:

Fish: The American Heart Association recommends eating at least 8 ounces of fish per week. Some fish, notably salmon, mackerel, sea bass, herring, lake trout, and sardines, are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps protect against arrhythmia, reduce levels of triglycerides, and slow the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Beans: Packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients like folate and B-vitamins, beans provide a range of health benefits, such as helping to reduce blood pressure.

Berries: Not only are they delicious, but berries are also thought to reduce inflammation and promote lower levels of LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides. They may also help low blood pressure.

Nuts: From almonds to pistachios, cashews to pecans, nuts are rife with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Cardiology suggested that those who regularly ate nuts were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t eat nuts. Researchers also found that walnuts, which are high in omega-3s, were especially good for heart health—and eating them at least once a week significantly lowered a person’s risk of both heart disease and stroke. Be aware, however, that nuts are calorie-dense as well as nutrient-dense. Keep your intake to one small handful daily.

Article sources open article sources

NIH: National Institutes of Health. Calcium: Fact Sheet for Professionals. Updated October 6, 2022.
Pana TA, Dehghani M, Baradaran HR, et al. Calcium intake, calcium supplementation and cardiovascular disease and mortality in the British population: EPIC-norfolk prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. Eur J Epidemiol. 2021;36(7):669-683. 
Sung Hye Kong, Jung Hee Kim, A Ram Hong, et al. Dietary calcium intake and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and fracture in a population with low calcium intake, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017;106(1):27-34.
Myung SK, Kim HB, Lee YJ, et al. Calcium Supplements and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Nutrients. 2021;13(2):368. 
Michos E, Cainzos-Achirica M, Heravi A, et al. Vitamin D, Calcium Supplements, and Implications for Cardiovascular Health. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2021 Feb, 77 (4) 437–449.   
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Calcium, Nutrition, and Bone Health. Page last reviewed August 2021.
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Calcium: Fact sheet for health professionals. Page last updated October 6, 2022.
American Heart Association. 4 ways to get good fats. Accessed on February 27, 2023. 
Medline Plus. Omega-3 Fats: Good for your heart. Page last reviewed June 22, 2022.
Medline Plus. Healthy Food Trends: Beans and Legumes. Page last reviewed June 22, 2022. 
Vahapoglu B, Erskine E, Gultekin Subasi B, et al. Recent Studies on Berry Bioactives and Their Health-Promoting Roles. Molecules. 2021;27(1):108.
Guasch-Ferré M, Liu X, Malik V, et al. Nut Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017 Nov, 70 (20) 2519–2532.

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