Calcium and our Heart Health

When it comes to calcium and heart health, calcium is a major player.

Calcium is one of the Swiss army knives of our body’s chemistry. In addition to its contribution to our bones, teeth, and nails, calcium is essential to the chemistry that makes our muscles contract and release, including the muscles in the heart. You need calcium to conduct nerve impulses, create blood clots when you’re injured, and help your cells grow normally.

At the same time, however, calcium’s pervasive presence throughout the body, and its role in healing, can also lead to problems.

Older healthy happy people who take calcium for their heart health

I call this the calcium paradox.

Damaged tissues in the body can calcify—becoming reinforced with excess calcium—until they can no longer function efficiently.

The build-up of calcium can occur in arteries, and even in the valves of your heart. In fact, arteriosclerosis happens when calcium builds up in the walls of the arteries, which can eventually lead to heart attack and a risk of stroke.

This vascular calcification is a mortality risk factor, especially for people with diabetes, atherosclerosis, and kidney disease, and currently, researchers are looking for ways to treat these problems with drugs.[1]

High arterial calcium is also a risk for cancer,[2] kidney disease,[3] and obstructed arteries.[4]

Some people with arteriosclerosis are prescribed statins, despite the fact that research shows statins do not help slow calcification,[5] and long-term, high-dose statins can even accelerate calcification, according to research published in 2015.[6]

Is The Calcium in Your Blood Too High?

High blood calcium is common, found in millions of Americans every year. Some people have high blood calcium because of undiagnosed thyroid conditions.[7] One of the common bad health effects of this is atrial fibrillation, especially common in those with high calcium and thyroid disease.[8]

There’s a negative relationship between high blood calcium and heart health: It has also been shown to be a risk factor for myocardial infarction. Other effects can include renal stones, osteoporosis, constipation, fatigue, and weakness.

For example, in the Kuopio Osteoporosis Study, conducted in Finland, where over ten thousand women were followed for 7 years, the resting heart rate for coronary heart disease in those who were taking calcium was highly elevated compared with women who didn’t take calcium.[9]

Calcifications Can Hurt Your Heart

Calcifications—the accumulation and hardening of calcium salts in living tissue—can form in many places throughout your body, including in the heart valves, as well as in both small and large arteries.

Calcification-related disorders or displaced calcium are major contributing factors in chronic disease, including heart disease.[10],[11],[12],[13]

It’s About Balance

We need calcium in the right form. But we don’t want too much. Too little and your body can’t do what it needs to do. Too much and the calcium itself starts petrifying you. That’s the calcium paradox.

So how do we resolve the calcium paradox?

The answer to bone loss with aging was long thought to be more calcium—the more the better. That appears to be incorrect. More recent research has helped us understand that a regulated, moderate amount of calcium is healthier.

Bone calcium loss contributes to calcification elsewhere. The loss of bone calcium can happen when the body’s pH becomes too acidic, which liberates calcium from the bones to buffer it. This leads both to osteopenia and to the calcium ending up where we don’t want it, such as in the artery walls.[14]

D3 helps us absorb calcium, but it’s just an on-switch. Too much D3 on its own has been shown in studies to lead to artery calcification. K2 supplementation has been shown to regulate calcium levels, even when subjects are exposed to high doses of cholesterol and D3, preventing heart valve calcification.[15]

So, one way to modulate calcium is by combining vitamin D3 with vitamin K2, which synergizes and regulates the D3. You may have seen that many supplements now often include both.

Magnesium[16] and phosphorus[17],[18] are helpful in regulating calcium’s effect on arteries, and potassium (especially in the form of potassium bicarbonate) may be one of the most helpful nutrients, as it helps buffer acid in the body.[19],[20]

Potassium bicarbonate helps the body put calcium back into the bones where it belongs—especially in older women and men.[21],[22]

The Paradox of Calcium and Heart Health

In addition to these vitamins and minerals, there are a host of herbs that have been shown to reduce calcium deposits to remedy existing calcification.

The good news is that the paradox of calcium is solvable.

When our bodies get the right amount of calcium, as part of a healthy diet, along with vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements that help regulate the healthy processing of calcium and bone health, one the most important elements of life can do the work in our bodies as it was meant to do.

References


[1] Pijuan J, Cantarero L, Natera-de Benito D, Altimir A, Altisent-Huguet A, Díaz-Osorio Y, Carrera-García L, Expósito-Escudero J, Ortez C, Nascimento A, Hoenicka J, Palau F. Mitochondrial Dynamics and Mitochondria-Lysosome Contacts in Neurogenetic Diseases. Front Neurosci. 2022 Jan 31;16:784880. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.784880. PMID: 35177962; PMCID: PMC8844575.

[2] Wang FM, Reiter-Brennan C, Dardari Z, Marshall CH, Nasir K, Miedema MD, Berman DS, Rozanski A, Rumberger JA, Budoff MJ, Dzaye O, Blaha MJ. Association between coronary artery calcium and cardiovascular disease as a supporting cause in cancer: The CAC consortium. Am J Prev Cardiol. 2020 Nov 12;4:100119. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpc.2020.100119. PMID: 34327479; PMCID: PMC8315471.

[3] Hill Gallant KM, Spiegel DM. Calcium Balance in Chronic Kidney Disease. Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2017 Jun;15(3):214-221. doi: 10.1007/s11914-017-0368-x. PMID: 28474258; PMCID: PMC5442193.

[4] Peng, A., 2021. Very High Coronary Artery Calcium (≥1000) and Association With Cardiovascular Disease Events, Non–Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes, and Mortality. [online] Circulation. Available at: <https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.050545> [Accessed 19 October 2022].

[5] Taron J, Lyass A, Mahoney TF, Ehrbar RQ, Vasan RS, D’Agostino RB Sr, Hoffmann U, Massaro JM, Lu MT. Coronary Artery Calcium Score-Directed Primary Prevention With Statins on the Basis of the 2018 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association/Multisociety Cholesterol Guidelines. J Am Heart Assoc. 2021 Jan 5;10(1):e018342. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.120.018342. Epub 2020 Dec 22. PMID: 33348999; PMCID: PMC7955488.

[6] Henein M, Granåsen G, Wiklund U, Schmermund A, Guerci A, Erbel R, Raggi P. High dose and long-term statin therapy accelerate coronary artery calcification. Int J Cardiol. 2015 Apr 1; 184:581-586. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2015.02.072. Epub 2015 Feb 24. PMID: 25769003.

[7] Yeh  MW, Ituarte  PH, Zhou  HC,  et al.  Incidence and prevalence of primary hyperparathyroidism in a racially mixed population. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013;98(3):1122-1129. doi:10.1210/jc.2012-4022 

[8] Patrik Andersson, Erik Rydberg, Ronnie Willenheimer, Primary hyperparathyroidism and heart disease – a Review, European Heart Journal (2004) 25, 1776–1787

[9] Pentti K, Tuppurainen MT, Honkanen R, et al. Use of calcium supplements and the risk of coronary heart disease in 52–62-year-old women: The Kuopio Osteoporosis Risk Factor and Prevention Study. Maturitas. 2009;63(1):73–78.

[10] Silverberg SJ, Fitzpatrick LA, Bilezikian JP. Hyperparathyroidism. In: Becker KL, ed. Principles and practice of endocrinology and metabolism. 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1995:512-9.

[11] Bringhurst FR, Demay MB, Kronenberg HM. Hormones and disorders of mineral metabolism. In:Wilson JD, ed. Williams Textbook of endocrinology. 9th ed. philadelphia: Saunders, 1998:1155-1209.

[12] Wermers RA, Khosla S, Atkinson EJ, Hodgson SF, O’Fallon WM, Melton LJ 3d. The rise and fall of primary hyperparathyroidism: a population-based study in Rochester, Minnesota, 1965-1992. Ann Intern Med 1997;126:433-40.

[13] Al Zahrani A, Levine MA. Primary hyperparathyroidism. Lancet 1997;349:1233-8.

[14] Conyers, R. A., R. Bais, and A. M. Rofe. (1990). “The relation of clinical catastrophes, endogenous oxalate production, and urolithiasis.” Clinical chemistry 36, no. 10, 1717-1730

[15] van Ballegooijen AJ, Pilz S, Tomaschitz A, Grübler MR, Verheyen N. The Synergistic Interplay between Vitamins D and K for Bone and Cardiovascular Health: A Narrative Review. Int J Endocrinol. 2017;2017:7454376. doi:10.1155/2017/7454376

[16] Castiglioni S, Cazzaniga A, Albisetti W, Maier JA. Magnesium and osteoporosis: current state of knowledge and future research directions. Nutrients. 2013;5(8):3022-3033

[17] Goodman WG, Goldin J, Kuizon BD , et al. Coronary-artery calcification in young adults with end-stage renal disease who are undergoing dialysis. N Engl J Med. 2000; 342:1478–83.

[18] Onufrak SJ, Bellasi A, Shaw LJ, Herzog CA, Cardarelli F, Wilson PW, Vaccarino V, Raggi P. Phosphorus levels are associated with subclinical atherosclerosis in the general population. Atherosclerosis. 2008 Aug;199(2):424-31. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2007.11.004. Epub 2008 Feb 21. PMID: 18093595.

[19] Lambert H, Frassetto L, Moore JB, Torgerson D, Gannon R, Burckhardt P, Lanham-New S. The effect of supplementation with alkaline potassium salts on bone metabolism: a meta-analysis. Osteoporos Int. 2015 Apr;26(4):1311-8. doi: 10.1007/s00198-014-3006-9. Epub 2015 Jan 9.

[20] He FJ, Marciniak M, Carney C, Markandu ND, Anand V, Fraser WD, Dalton RN, Kaski JC, MacGregor GA. Effects of potassium chloride and potassium bicarbonate on endothelial function, cardiovascular risk factors, and bone turnover in mild hypertensives. Hypertension. 2010 Mar;55(3):681-8. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.109.147488. Epub 2010 Jan 18.

[21] Dawson-Hughes BHarris SSPalermo NJCastaneda-Sceppa CRasmussen HMDallal GE. Treatment with potassium bicarbonate lowers calcium excretion and bone resorption in older men and women, J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Jan;94(1):96-102. doi: 10.1210/jc.2008-1662. Epub 2008 Oct 21.

[22] Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Palermo NJ, Gilhooly CH, Shea MK, Fielding RA, Ceglia L. Potassium Bicarbonate Supplementation Lowers Bone Turnover and Calcium Excretion in Older Men and Women: A Randomized Dose-Finding Trial. J Bone Miner Res. 2015 Nov;30(11):2103-11. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.2554. Epub 2015 Jul 28.

   Send article as PDF