Adding a supplement to our daily routine can give us a helping hand for getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals we need. One supplement that's been on my radar is calcium to boost my bone and muscle health. However, I realized I have to be careful. Research highlights a link between taking calcium supplements and an increased risk of dementia, especially if you have a certain health condition.
What are the risks of taking calcium supplements?
A 2016 study published in Neurology wanted to see whether calcium supplements heightened the risk of dementia in older women after a five year follow up period. Research was conducted in Gothenburg, Sweden and included 700 women (70 to 92 years old) who were diagnosed with cerebrovascular disease. This disease is linked to other conditions such as stroke and aneurysms that occur when there are issues affecting blood flow and blood vessels in the brain.
A total of 98 participants used calcium supplements while 602 did not. It's unclear how long the participants took the supplements and what their daily dose was. However, researchers noted that at the time of this study Sweden's average recommended daily dose of calcium supplements was listed as 1,000 milligrams.
After the 2005 to 2006 follow up period, women who took the calcium supplements were at a higher risk for dementia. Those who didn't take the supplements did not have an increased chance of dementia. One explanation offered by researchers is that those with a history of stroke tend to have compromised blood vessels. This might lead to a negative effect when taking these supplements as it can cause heightened calcium levels in the body and alter the blood flow to your brain (a factor of vascular dementia).
Previous research has pointed out heart disease as another potential risk of taking calcium supplements. While it's a key mineral for strengthening bones to avoid fractures and falls, consult with your doctor first to see if a calcium supplement would be the right fit for you.
How much calcium do I need daily?
The National Institutes of Health recommends that women over 50 take 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. Calcium supplements usually offer between 200 and 600 milligrams of the mineral per tablet. It's a good idea to take one pill twice a day instead of both at once to ensure that your body properly absorbs each one.
Keeping these things in mind, you'll be able to decide whether your body would benefit from regularly taking calcium supplements.