Too Much Calcium Not Good for Your Heart
Q. If calcium is a plaque ingredient, should someone with a family history of clogged arteries and bypass surgery take calcium pills? I'm 68 and have mild signs of possible bone thinning (osteopenia), but my serum calcium levels are normal.
-- Susan, Toronto, ON, CA
A. We're believers in the power of calcium, taken in the right amounts, no matter how many birthday candles were on your last birthday cake. Yes, if you overdo calcium, you could increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. But if you do calcium right, in addition to better bone health (a clear concern for you), you'll also do your ticker a favor by lowering your blood pressure.
Here's the deal: Aim for 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, but focus on getting at least half of that from foods: white beans, cooked spinach, low- and no-fat dairy foods, fortified OJ, canned sardines. If you're like most people (including us), you'll still need a 600 milligrm supplement (calcium citrate is best) to fill in the gaps. And add magnesium, 400 milligrams a day to your daily routine.
Calcium doesn't like to work solo or play by itself, so for better absorption, constipation prevention, and blood vessel insurance, we also recommend taking 1,200 international units of vitamin D3 (because you're over 60) and that 400 milligrams of magnesium. Your bones and heart will be better for it.