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What Is the Connection Between Calcium and Heart Attacks?

Milk is a good source of calcium.
When taken in supplement form, calcium can increase risk of heart attack.
Bananas contain calcium.
The anatomy of a heart attack.
Article Details
  • Written By: Helena Reimer
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 23 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Researchers have discovered that there is a connection between calcium and heart attacks. According to the discoveries, taking calcium supplements can not only significantly increase the risk of heart attacks, but it can also increase the risk of a stroke and mortality. Obtaining calcium from dietary sources such as dairy and leafy greens, however, seems to have no negative effects on the heart.

Among many health benefits it offers, calcium is good for the heart. It is beneficial for the maintenance of a steady heartbeat and helps to reduce high blood pressure. In excess amounts, however, or when taken in the form of a calcium supplement, it can potentially result in an increased heart attack risk.

Higher dosages of calcium taken at one time tends to promote a stronger connection between calcium and heart attacks. This is because the body can only absorb so much calcium at one time, and the larger the dosages, the more of it ends up in the bloodstream without being absorbed. Therefore, it is encouraged to take several smaller dosages of calcium supplements throughout the day for maximum absorption.

Excess calcium within the blood causes blood serum levels to rise, which eventually can contribute to plaque buildup along the walls of the arteries. This causes the arteries to lose their flexibility and become hardened, which in turn increases the risk for heart problems. In addition to heart attacks, calcium supplements also can increase the risk of a stroke and of the death rate.

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Vitamin D is essential for helping the body to absorb more calcium. Some evidence suggests that, when taking calcium along with a vitamin D supplement, the negative effect between calcium and heart attacks is reduced. Other factors that might play roles in reducing the negative connection between calcium and heart attacks include vitamin K and magnesium. Vitamin K can help to protect the body against hardened arteries, and magnesium acts as a natural calcium channel blocker, which also protects against heart attacks.

There does not seem to be a connection between calcium and heart attacks when calcium is taken from food sources. A possible reason is that calcium from food sources is in lower amounts and is also absorbed into the blood and body at a slower rate. As a result, the calcium that enters the body has a much greater chance of being absorbed. Good food sources of calcium include dairy, dairy products, and leafy green vegetables.

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