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Calcium supplements may increase heart attack risk but do not throw out your tablets yet.

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The calcium supplements that many older women take to boost their bone health may increase their risk for heart disease, a study shows.

“Calcium supplements, with or without vitamin D, mostly increase the risk of cardiovascular events, especially [heart attack],” concludes study researcher Ian Reid, MD, a professor of medicine and endocrinology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “A reassessment of the role of calcium supplements in osteoporosis management is warranted.”

The study is published in the journal BMJ.

Researchers re-analyzed data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) that looked at calcium and vitamin D supplements. The initial study of 36,000 women showed no increased risk for heart disease among those who received 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day, compared with those who were randomly assigned to receive a placebo.

But some of these women were also taking personal calcium supplements, which could have masked the initial findings.

Reid and colleagues looked at a subgroup of 16,718 women who were not taking calcium supplements on their own when the WHI began. In this analysis, women who were taking calcium and vitamin D as part of the trial were at greater risk for heart disease, namely heart attacks.

Analysis of data from 13 other trials backs up these findings, showing that taking calcium supplements with or without vitamin D may increase risk of heart attack and stroke.

The message is try and have as much calcium in your diet. You need 1000 mg of calcium daily and 1 glass of milk or yogurt have about 290 mg of calcium each. If you are consuming enough calcium you may not need a supplement. Please discuss your diet and calcium supplements with your doctor.

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