Health Team

Study: Calcium supplements can increase heart attack risk

Posted August 2, 2010 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated August 2, 2010 6:34 p.m. EDT

Millions of Americans, like 68-year-old Ann Miller, take calcium supplements to maintain healthy bones.

“I'm trying just to manage it so the bone density results are stable,” Miller said.

But new findings published in the British Medical Journal show calcium supplements can lead to a 30 percent increased risk for a heat attack.

“These are two very common illnesses that a lot of people have and so this correlation of heart disease and treatment for osteoporosis affects a lot of individuals,” said Dr. Sharonne Hayes, of the Mayo Clinic.

The latest findings are based on the results of 11 clinical trials involving 12,000 mostly elderly women, many of whom were taking extra calcium to prevent bone loss.

The new research looked only at people taking calcium supplements. Previous studies show that people getting calcium through food didn't have the same risks.

Doctors said it is time to take a closer look at just how beneficial extra calcium can be.

“I think that the days of recommending calcium supplements to every patient with osteoporosis are probably over because there is actually a fairly modest benefit of calcium supplements on fracture rate,” Hayes said.