Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
Tags: calcium | risks | osteoporosis

Is Calcium Risky?

Monday, 18 June 2012 11:02 AM

Question: I’m a 67-year-old woman and I watched my mother suffer from osteoporosis. I’ve been taking calcium, but now I see that a new study says it increases heart attack risk. Should I keep taking it? What else can I do for bone health?
Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
Have you had a bone density test? Since you have a positive family history, it is advisable to have regular checks of your bone density, and thyroid hormone levels. Caution has been advised among persons who are taking calcium supplements to boost bone health, after a recent study from Germany observed an increased risk for heart attacks in their study.
You could include physical activity in your daily routine. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, tennis and climbing stairs, can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss. People who are physically inactive have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do their more-active counterparts. Research also suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Similarly, regularly having more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases the risk of osteoporosis, possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium.
Pay attention to vitamin D. For adults ages 19 to 70, the Institute of Medicine recommends 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D a day. The recommendation increases to 800 IUs a day for adults age 71 and older. Although many people get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, this may not be a good source for everyone. Other sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as tuna and sardines, egg yolks, fortified milk, and vitamin D supplements.
Discuss estrogen therapy with your doctor. Estrogen especially when started soon after menopause can help maintain bone density. However, the use of hormone therapy can increase the risk of blood clots, endometrial cancer and, possibly, breast cancer. Ask your doctor whether hormone therapy is right for you.
A number of medications are available to help slow bone loss and maintain bone mass, including bisphosphonates (Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva) and raloxifene (Evista). Your doctor will monitor your bone density and may recommend other drugs to help prevent bone loss.

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Caution advised on calcium supplements to boost bone health.
Monday, 18 June 2012 11:02 AM
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