Nancy Dennis took calcium supplements for 25 years, but started to question her daily dose once studies showed the pills might increase the risk for a heart attack.
She has a family history of heart disease, so she asked her doctor for guidance.
“She was very clear, discontinue taking the calcium supplements. There was no upside in my continuing to take it,” said Dennis.
Dr. Karol Watson says many of her female patients want to know how they can prevent osteoporosis and heart disease.
“We know both of these things are going to happen as we age, but what is your own personal risk? What is your greatest threat to life?” said Dr. Karol Watson with UCLA’s Medical Center.
For a third of all women, that risk is heart disease. Dr. Watson says women can get calcium from other sources.
“There is absolutely no evidence that calcium from dietary sources, like milk, like green leafy vegetables, those have never been associated with harm. It’s only the calcium supplements that have been associated with harm,” said Dr. Watson.
Dennis is now making sure to include those healthy foods in her diet and doesn’t feel the need to take supplements.
“The only guilt I felt was literally when I poured the pills out into the trash," said Dennis. "I thought about how much money I was wasting.”
A government advisory panel recently recommended against postmenopausal women taking a low-dose calcium supplement to prevent fractures. There isn’t enough evidence yet to say whether the pills benefit young women.
Weight-bearing exercises can also help prevent osteoporosis.