Calcium supplements linked to higher dementia risk in women

By Rebecca Burton • Published: November 8th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Women who have had a stroke may want to talk to their doctor before taking calcium supplements. Research results published in the online issue of Neurology revealed that calcium supplements may be associated with a higher risk of dementia in older women who had cerebrovascular disease.

Cerebrovascular disease is a group of disorders related to impaired blood flow in the brain, such as stroke. These disorders are currently the fifth-leading cause of death in America and also put women more at risk of developing dementia.

At the same time, older women are also at risk for developing osteoporosis, caused by bone calcium deficiency. For this condition, doctors typically recommend 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of daily calcium intake, so supplements often are prescribed. The authors wanted to see whether these calcium supplements posed a risk to women with certain health conditions.

Researchers in Sweden followed 700 dementia-free women between the ages 70 and 92 for five years. At the start of the study, 98 women — 54 of whom had already had a stroke — were taking calcium supplements regularly. Over the course of the study, 59 of the 700 women developed dementia, and women who took calcium supplements were twice as likely to develop dementia as those who did not.

The research also showed that taking calcium did not increase risk of dementia for women who had not had a stroke. But for women who had had a stroke, taking calcium supplements was linked to an almost seven-fold increase in the chances of getting dementia.

The lead author said calcium from food has a different effect on the body than supplements and appears to be safe for those with vascular problems.

Calcium deficiency can be a health risk, but seek out the best way to add this essential element to your diet.