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Calcium pills: Experts warn the bone-strengthening mineral could harm your heart

Calcium supplements taken by millions of Britons to improve bone health could cause heart damage in some people, doctors say.

The warning comes as new research shows that older adults with a common heart problem are a third more likely to die, from any cause, if they take the pills.

These findings add to growing evidence that too much calcium in the body can have a negative effect on the body.

Experts now advise anyone without a specific medical need not to take the pills, with one dietary scientist calling them dangerous with no clear benefit.

Calcium pills have been recommended for the development of strong teeth and bones.  But now older people with heart problems are being advised not to take them, as the mineral can exacerbate heart disease.

Calcium pills have been recommended for the development of strong teeth and bones. But now older people with heart problems are being advised not to take them, as the mineral can exacerbate heart disease.

The new research, published in the journal Heart, followed 2,650 patients with aortic stenosis, a potentially serious condition in which the aortic valve inside the heart fails to open completely, reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body.

The new research, published in the journal Heart, followed 2,650 patients with aortic stenosis, a potentially serious condition in which the aortic valve inside the heart fails to open completely, reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body.

Calcium is a vital nutrient needed for healthy bones and teeth and is also important for regulating muscle contractions, including the heartbeat, and making sure blood clots normally. Sources include dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and some fish.

Calcium deficiency can lead to a condition called rickets in children, which affects bone development, and bone-weakening diseases, osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adulthood, increasing the risk of painful fractures.

In an effort to combat this, the NHS recommends that people over the age of 65 take a combined calcium and vitamin D supplement to help maintain bone health “if their diet isn’t as good as it should be”. Vitamin D is necessary to help the body properly absorb calcium.

However, in recent years a number of studies have raised questions about the safety of this advice.

In 2019, scientists at Tufts University in Massachusetts analyzed the medical records of 27,000 American adults and found links between high doses of calcium and cancer.

And a review published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2010 found significantly higher rates of heart attacks in those taking calcium, though it’s not clear exactly why these problems have been seen.

The new research, published in the journal Heart, followed 2,650 patients with aortic stenosis, a potentially serious condition in which the aortic valve inside the heart fails to open completely, reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body.

Aortic stenosis is caused by a buildup of calcium in the valve leaflets (thin tissue that opens and closes) which over time causes them to harden, affecting their ability to open and close.

An estimated 400,000 people in the UK have the potentially fatal condition. The rate of those affected increases as people age, and it is the most common heart valve disease seen in the elderly, with one in eight over the age of 75 affected.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, who followed patients for five years, found that those with aortic stenosis who took calcium, with or without vitamin D, had twice the risk of dying from heart problems than those with the condition who did not take calcium. the supplements

They also had a 48 percent greater risk of needing surgery to replace the valve and a 31 percent greater chance of dying from any cause.

“Add this to other evidence and it’s pretty clear that calcium supplementation is bad for people with potential heart problems, and I’m not sure there’s any likely benefit,” said Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London. .

“In my opinion, there is enough evidence to say that calcium is a dangerous supplement that should not be available without a prescription and should not be prescribed unless someone is significantly deficient in calcium.”

The National Osteoporosis Clinical Guidelines recommend a minimum of 700 mg of calcium per day, which can be achieved by consuming two small servings of hard cheese such as cheddar and a yogurt or small glass of milk.

Many foods, including breakfast cereals and some bread, are fortified with calcium. Fish eaten whole with bones, such as pilchards, pilchards, and whitebait, are also rich sources.

Supplements can contain up to 1,200 mg per dose.

However, the evidence on the value of taking calcium to protect bones seems mixed.

A review published in the BMJ in 2015 from New Zealand found that the evidence that calcium supplements prevent fractures is weak and inconsistent.

Cardiologists told The Mail on Sunday that it was not clear from this new observational study whether calcium is directly causing the higher death rate in people with aortic stenosis, since patients taking the supplements tended to have other health conditions such as diabetes, which could affect your overall health.

But it raised questions about whether people should use it routinely without a clear reason to do so, said Professor David Newby, chair of cardiology at the Duke of Edinburgh British Heart Foundation at the University of Edinburgh. ‘If you have osteoporosis and need to take the supplements, you should. But if you’re taking them because you think it’s a good idea and you don’t have a specific reason, you can pause to think,” says Professor Newby.

‘The vast majority of people who take vitamin supplements don’t need them. These data are a bit ambiguous, but they are a bit of a flag, and we need more research on it.”

Benoy Shah, a consultant cardiologist at Southampton General Hospital and president of the British Heart Valve Society, says the organization has been contacted by people asking if they should continue to take calcium.

“For people who don’t have any medical indications for calcium and take it because they think they should, calcium may be associated with tamponade of the heart valves and they may want to discuss this with their doctor or think about it more closely.” . ,’ he says.

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