Calcium Supplements Hurt the Heart?


BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Researchers say they now have evidence that too much of a good thing can possibly damage your heart. The results of a new study suggest that calcium supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries.

For Brenda Marie Black, canvas, paintbrushes and color soothe her soul. This 54-year-old has spent decades reducing stress. She eats right, fruits and vegetables fuel her body, and she works out. But one day, “I was running and all of a sudden I felt this real heavy feeling on my chest, almost like someone was stepping on my chest,” Black shared.

Black’s husband took her to the hospital.  She was having a heart attack.

“They said there was blockage, but didn’t attribute it to anything in particular,” Black told Ivanhoe.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found evidence that plaque buildup in the heart may come from an unexpected source, over-the-counter calcium supplements. The researchers studied ten years’ worth of medical information for 2,700 patients, including scans of the heart arteries.

“We found those who were taking supplements, calcium supplements compared to non-supplement users were 22% more likely to have new development of calcium on heart arteries on the second CAT scans ten years apart,” shared Erin Michos, M.D., MH.S., an associate professor of medicine and cardiologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Black was not part of the Johns Hopkins study, but she had been taking supplements for about two years.

Black confessed, “I kind of increased it in the last year where I thought maybe more was better for me because I’m not getting calcium.  At least not as much as I should.”

Dr. Michos said, “I think that patients think because these are over-the-counter that they’re safe, and more is better.”

Instead, experts advise patients to get more calcium from their diets.

Kelly Alagna, R.N., B.S.N, a cardiac nurse at Johns Hopkins Medicine mentioned, “Green leafy vegetables are a great source. They’re almost equivalent to a lot of dairy products.”

Kale, spinach, bok choy, broccoli and brussel sprouts are good non-dairy sources of calcium.

Black is getting stronger every day and she has sworn off the daily pills and chews she used to favor.

“If calcium supplements are causing blockage then the word needs to get out,” Brenda said.

The research also indicated that dietary calcium may have a positive impact on heart health.  Dr. Michos said for some patients with differing calcium needs, the low-dose supplements may be helpful. But even though they are available without a prescription, she recommended people should consult with their doctor before taking them.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

REPORT #2392a

(Source: Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for the human body. The body itself does not produce the mineral, so it is important to receive it from diets or supplements. Calcium is usually recommended for strengthening bones and allowing the heart, muscles, and nerves to function properly. Some studies even suggest the intake of calcium, along with vitamin D, can protect against cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. If a person doesn’t get enough calcium, especially at a young age, they are at risk of not reaching their full potential height, and suffering from osteoporosis.  Nevertheless, before consuming calcium supplements it is important to know how much calcium you actually need and what type of supplements to take if diet falls short.

THE STUDY: Researchers at John Hopkins University have found evidence that calcium supplements may be to blame for plaque buildups in the heart, and other heart-related diseases. The researchers studied 10 years’ worth of medical information and found that those patients who were taking calcium supplements, compared to those who were not, were 22% more likely to have development of calcium on heart arteries in CAT scans performed ten years later. Furthermore, taking calcium is not recommended if a patient suffers from hypercalcemia. It is important not to consume too much calcium. Dr. Michos says “Individuals should try to reach their recommended amount, which is 1000 mg a day for men age 18-70 and women age 18-50, and 1200 mg for men aged 70 or older and women aged 50 or older.  Individuals should try to reach their daily recommended amount through food sources rather than supplements.  But there is no evidence that more than this amount, even from diet, is beneficial.”

(Source: Dr. Erin Michos &

ALTERNATIVE TO SUPPLEMENTS: As mentioned earlier, calcium supplements are not the only solution for calcium intake. Your diet can be a good source of calcium; some options include:

  • Dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yogurt
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and kale
  • Fish with edible soft bones, such as sardines and canned salmon
  • Calcium-fortified foods and beverages, such as soy products, cereal and fruit juices, and milk substitutes

Too much calcium can definitely cause some harm, so make sure to consult with your doctor about how much calcium intake your body actually needs.


* For More Information, Contact:

Kelly Alagna, RN, BSN                                               Erin Michos, MD, MHS

Cardiac Nurse                                                             Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Johns Hopkins Medicine                                            410-502-6813                                         

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