Calcium Supplements in Women: Is there an Increased Risk of Stroke or Heart Disease?

Dr. Julie Paik, MD MPH Instructor, Harvard Medical School Brigham and Women's Massachusetts Interview with:
Dr. Julie Paik, MD MPH MSc
Instructor, Harvard Medical School
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Paik: Many women in the United States take calcium supplements. One study found that over 60% of women aged 60 and over in the United States were taking calcium supplements. However, the medical community is still not certain of the effects of calcium supplements in women, particularly on cardiovascular disease risk. For this reason, we studied 74,245 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study over a 24-year follow-up period for their risk of developing cardiovascular disease (heart disease or stroke). We found that there was no increased risk of heart disease or stroke among women taking calcium supplements during the 24-year follow-up period. Our paper has several distinct strengths compared to prior studies including the large sample size, long follow-up period, cases of cardiovascular disease that were confirmed by medical record review, detailed and repeated assessment of calcium supplement use, and detailed information about other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Paik: Every individual is different so it’s important for patients to talk with their doctor about whether taking calcium supplements is right for them. Also, more studies need to be conducted to further understand the effects of calcium supplements on cardiovascular disease.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Paik: Our study adds to the existing body of evidence supporting that calcium supplements do not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in women. Based on our findings, additional prospective cohort studies examining potential cardiovascular disease risk associated with calcium supplement use are needed. Future randomized controlled trials of calcium supplementation, if conducted, should be designed to optimize assessment of cardiovascular events.


Calcium supplements not associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease in women

 J. M. Paik, G. C. Curhan, Q. Sun, K. M. Rexrode, J. E. Manson… in Osteoporosis International (2014)