I've read that calcium supplements may increase the risk of heart attacks. Is this true?

Answer From Rekha Mankad, M.D.

Some doctors think it's possible that taking calcium supplements may increase your risk of a heart attack. Other doctors believe that calcium supplements have little or no effect on your heart attack risk.

Many people take calcium supplements to treat or prevent bone disease, such as osteoporosis. It's thought that calcium in these supplements could move into fatty plaques in your arteries, causing them to harden. Hardening of fatty plaques increases the risk of heart disease.

A study from the National Institutes of Health found that men who took calcium supplements had an increased risk of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases. But other studies suggest that both men and women who take calcium supplements have a higher risk of heart disease.

In general, more research is needed before doctors know how calcium supplements may affect your overall heart attack risk. Here is what is known so far.

  • The calcium supplements that some doctors are concerned about are generally those that contain only calcium.
  • The effect of supplements combining calcium and vitamin D on heart attack risk still needs to be determined.
  • Calcium from food sources, such as dairy products and green leafy vegetables, is not a concern.

Taking calcium (with vitamin D) does provide a benefit for those who have too little calcium or bone loss. As with any health issue, it's important to talk to your doctor to determine what's most appropriate in your case. Check with your doctor before taking any type of supplement to determine if there's a need.


Rekha Mankad, M.D.

Jan. 14, 2020