Harvard Women's Health Watch

Research We're Watching: Calcium could harm women's hearts

Getting too much calcium, particularly by adding supplements to calcium in your diet, could be risky, according to a study published in the February BMJ. Researchers in Sweden followed a group of more than 61,000 women for two decades. The women filled out dietary questionnaires, and based on their responses, the researchers assessed how much calcium the participants got from diet and supplements. Women who took more than 1,400 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day from diet and supplements were at higher risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and ischemic heart disease (when the heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen). The increase in risk for women who consumed 1,400 mg of calcium from diet alone was more moderate. This study relied on women's recollections of their diet, which means that their reporting might not be 100% accurate. Still, this is one of several studies to find a connection between high doses of calcium from supplements and an increased risk of death in both men and women. To shore up your bones and prevent fractures, health experts recommend getting 1,200 mg of calcium a day. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) does not recommend that postmenopausal women take daily calcium supplements for fracture prevention. The safest sources are foods such as low-fat milk, yogurt, sardines, and salmon.

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