Calcium supplements linked to heart attacks

LOS ANGELES Bone health isn't a big concern for Cecile Schiller of Los Angeles, but per her doctor's orders she takes calcium supplements anyway.

"I take them because he tells me to. I love him and I listen to what he tells me," said Schiller.

Millions of other Americans, especially the elderly, follow the same advice. But a new report in the British Medical Journal is raising some concerns.

An international team analyzed 11 studies on calcium supplements, involving 12,000 patients. They concluded calcium supplements may increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 30 percent.

"This study generates the issue of whether taking calcium supplements can actually have an adverse effect," said cardiologist Dr. Norman Lepor.

The study did not address how taking calcium supplements could lead to an increase in the risk of heart disease, but one theory is that taking calcium can lead to calcium deposits in the arteries which in turn could lead to heart disease.

"The issue that is being prompted by the recent publication is whether or not supplemental calcium alone has any virtue," said Dr. Lepor.

The study only looked at calcium supplements without vitamin D.

Dr. Lepor says other studies show calcium for rebuilding bone, calcium supplements alone may not be effective.

"Calcium alone may not improve bone health and it really has to be in combination with vitamin D," said Dr. Lepor.

So Dr. Lepor suggests patients who take calcium should add vitamin D to their regimen.

Its advice Cecile Schiller follows to the letter.

"You have to have faith in your doctor," she said. "That's who you listen to."

In the study, researchers point out that eating calcium in your diet was not associated with an increased heart attack risk. Experts advise people to eat more calcium-rich foods. In another recent study, doctors found people with low levels of vitamin D were more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease.

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