For long we have been told to have milk due to its calcium content because it plays a vital role in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. It is considered to be the primary mineral that is present in bones, and so it provides structure and strength. That is why adequate calcium intake throughout life is crucial! It turns out, calcium and heart are also somehow connected. In fact, calcium deficiency is not good for the heart at all!
To explore the connection between calcium and heart, Health Shots consulted Dr Abhijit Borse, Interventional cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai.
Health benefits of calcium
Calcium is an essential mineral required by our body for various important functions. Apart from milk, you can get calcium intake from calcium-rich foods such as yogurt, spinach, broccoli and other greens. Here is why calcium is important for health:
1. Muscle function
Apart from maintaining good bone and teeth health, calcium is also necessary for proper muscle contraction and relaxation, including the muscles involved in movement, heartbeat and breathing. Dr Borse explains that when a nerve impulse reaches a muscle, calcium ions are released, initiating muscle contraction.
2. Nervous system function
Calcium is involved in transmitting nerve signals throughout the body. It helps in the release of neurotransmitters, chemicals that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other. So, calcium is 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 an injury. It helps in the activation of several proteins that are involved in the clotting 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 vital for maintaining overall health.
Can calcium deficiency cause heart problems?
What happens to the heart if calcium is low? In 2017, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles found that people with low calcium might have higher chances of having a cardiac arrest. Dr Borse says that calcium deficiency is not a direct cause of heart diseases, but it can contribute to certain conditions that affect heart health.
Take a look at some of the heart-related problems that can be associated with calcium deficiency:
1. Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Calcium plays a role in maintaining blood pressure within a normal range. When calcium levels are insufficient, it can lead to an increase in blood pressure, which, if left uncontrolled, can contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke, says the expert.
2. Cardiac arrhythmias
Calcium is essential for the proper functioning of the electrical system in the heart. When calcium levels are imbalanced, it can disrupt the electrical signals that regulate the heart’s rhythm, leading to irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias.
3. Coronary artery disease
Calcium deficiency itself does not directly cause coronary artery disease, but it might be associated with conditions that contribute to its development. For example, inadequate calcium intake might lead to high blood pressure and increased cholesterol levels, both of which are risk factors for coronary artery disease, says the expert.
4. Osteoporosis and heart disease connection
If someone is not getting enough calcium, it can make their bones weak and contribute to the development of osteoporosis. People with osteoporosis might have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular problems, potentially due to shared risk factors such as age, hormone imbalances and inflammation.
What is the ideal calcium intake for a healthy heart?
The expert says there isn’t a specific ideal level of calcium that applies universally to everyone for maintaining a healthy heart. The optimal calcium levels for heart health can vary depending on individual factors, such as age, sex, overall health status, and any underlying medical conditions. However, it is generally recommended that adults aim for a daily calcium intake of around 1000 to 1300 milligrams, depending on age and sex.
For instance, adult men and women aged between 19 and 50 should have 1000 mg of calcium per day. Women aged 51 and older should take it up to 1200 mg per day. This includes dietary calcium as well as any calcium obtained from supplements, if necessary. But make sure your family member is not consuming too much of calcium as excessive levels of calcium in the body can have various effects on the heart and cardiovascular system.