Calcium and heart health: what is their connection?

We have long been told to consume milk because of its calcium content, as it plays an essential role in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. It is considered to be the main mineral present in the bones and therefore gives it structure and resistance. This is why adequate calcium intake throughout life is crucial! It turns out that calcium and the heart are also somehow related. In fact, a calcium deficiency is not good for the heart at all!

To explore the link between calcium and the heart, Health Shots consulted Dr. Abhijit Borse, Interventional Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai.

Calcium is not only good for bone health. Image provided by: Shutterstock

Health Benefits of Calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral that our body needs for various important functions. Besides milk, you can get calcium intake from calcium-rich foods such as yogurt, spinach, broccoli, and other green vegetables. Here’s why calcium is important for health:

1. Muscle function

In addition to maintaining healthy bones and teeth, calcium is also needed for muscle contraction and relaxation, including those involved in movement, heart rate and breathing. Dr. Borse explains that when a nerve impulse hits a muscle, calcium ions are released, triggering muscle contraction.

2. Nervous system function

Calcium is involved in the transmission of nerve signals throughout the body. It helps release neurotransmitters, chemicals that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other. Calcium is therefore important for maintaining the normal functioning of the nervous system.

3. Blood clotting

Calcium is essential for blood clotting, a critical process that prevents excessive bleeding after injury. It contributes to the activation of several proteins involved in the coagulation process.

4. Hormone secretion

Calcium is involved in the secretion of various hormones, including insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels, and parathyroid hormone, which controls calcium levels in the body. These hormones are essential for maintaining overall health.

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calcium and heart
Calcium deficiency is not good for the heart. Image courtesy: Unsplash

Can a calcium deficiency cause heart problems?

What happens to the heart if calcium is low? In 2017, researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles found that people with low calcium levels may be at higher risk for cardiac arrest. Dr. Borse says calcium deficiency is not a direct cause of heart disease, but it can contribute to certain conditions that affect heart health.

Take a look at some of the heart problems that can be associated with calcium deficiency:

1. Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Calcium plays a role in keeping blood pressure within a normal range. When calcium levels are insufficient, it can lead to an increase in blood pressure which, if left unchecked, can contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke, explains the expert.

2. Cardiac arrhythmias

Calcium is essential for the proper functioning of the electrical system of the heart. When calcium levels are out of balance, it can disrupt the electrical signals that regulate heart rhythm, leading to irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias.

3. Coronary artery disease

Calcium deficiency by itself does not directly cause coronary heart disease, but it can be associated with conditions that contribute to its development. For example, insufficient calcium intake can lead to high blood pressure and increased cholesterol levels, two risk factors for coronary heart disease, explains the expert.

4. Link between osteoporosis and heart disease

If a person does not consume enough calcium, it can weaken their bones and contribute to the development of osteoporosis. People with osteoporosis may have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular problems, potentially due to common risk factors such as age, hormonal imbalances and inflammation.

What is the ideal calcium intake for a healthy heart?

The expert claims that there is no specific ideal calcium level that universally applies to everyone to maintain a healthy heart. Optimal calcium levels for heart health can vary depending on individual factors, such as age, gender, general health, and any underlying medical conditions. However, adults are generally recommended to aim for a daily calcium intake of around 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams, depending on age and gender.

For example, adult men and women between the ages of 19 and 50 should consume 1000 mg of calcium per day. Women aged 51 and over should take up to 1200 mg per day. This includes dietary calcium as well as any calcium obtained from supplements, if needed. But make sure that your family member does not consume too much calcium, as excessive levels of calcium in the body can have various effects on the heart and cardiovascular system.

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