Supplementing calcium with vitamin D, on the other hand, was linked to a 31% increased risk of premature death from any cause, according to a new study.
Calcium supplements, which are commonly given to the elderly to prevent brittle bones (osteoporosis) and fractures, have been linked to an increased risk of death in people with aortic valve stenosis, a progressive and potentially fatal condition, according to research published online in the journal Heart.
Furthermore, regardless of whether or not these supplements are coupled with vitamin D, the illness, which is the most frequent form of heart valve disease in adults in developed countries, appears to worsen, according to the research.
The aortic valve, the heart’s main outflow valve, stiffens and narrows, causing aortic stenosis. It can no longer fully open, decreasing or restricting blood flow from the heart to the major artery (aorta) and the rest of the body.
The only effective treatment is AVR, which is the replacement of the defective valve (aortic valve replacement).
The link between dietary and supplementary calcium or vitamin D and the risk of cardiovascular disease and death is debatable. However, the majority of the evidence for their safety comes from animal studies, and prescriptions for both of these supplements have increased dramatically in recent years, particularly among postmenopausal women, according to the researchers.
The researchers aimed to assess if these supplements had any effect on death from any cause, as well as death from cardiovascular disease, the need for AVR, and the advancement of aortic stenosis in older adults.
They followed the heart health of 2657 individuals with mild to moderate aortic stenosis (average age 74; 42 percent women) from 2008 to 2018: the average monitoring duration was more than 5.5 years.
Participants were separated into three groups: those who did not take any supplements (1292;49%), those who took vitamin D alone (332;12%), and those who were given calcium plus or minus vitamin D supplements (1033;39%), with 115 taking only a calcium supplement.
Those who took supplements had significantly higher rates of diabetes and coronary artery disease than those who did not. They were also more likely to be using statins, warfarin, and phosphate binders (to decrease phosphorus absorption), as well as having undergone a coronary artery bypass graft and requiring kidney dialysis.
540 (20.5%) persons died during the monitoring period: 150 died of cardiovascular disease, 155 died of other causes, and 235 died of unknown causes. In addition, 774 patients (or 29 %) had their aortic valve replaced.
After 5 years, more than a third of participants in each group acquired significant aortic stenosis.
Supplemental vitamin D did not appear to have any effect on survival. Supplementing calcium with vitamin D, on the other hand, was linked to a 31% increased risk of death from any cause and a doubling of the risk of cardiovascular death. In comparison to those who did not take supplements, it was linked to a 48% increased risk of AVR.
Supplemental calcium was also linked to a 24% increased risk of death from any cause and a near tripling of the risk of AVR. In addition, those who took calcium supplements but did not have their aortic valve replaced had a greater risk of death from any cause, including cardiovascular disease.
Because this is an observational study, no reason can be determined. Supplement users exhibited higher risk factors for heart disease and death than non-users, although the amounts of calcium consumed through food and supplements were not measured.
However, they nevertheless conclude: “Strengthened by its large sample size and extended follow-up period, our study suggests that calcium supplementation does not confer any [cardiovascular] benefit, and instead may reflect an elevated overall risk of AVR and mortality, especially in those not undergoing AVR.”
Professor Jutta Bergler-Klein of the Medical University of Vienna points out in a related editorial that billions of dollars are spent each year on vitamin and mineral supplements for the elderly in the mistaken notion that they improve health.
However, she suggests that we should reconsider—at least when it comes to calcium supplements—and that the findings of the study should give doctors treating osteoporosis in adults with heart disease pause for thought.
“In patients with calcific [aortic stenosis] and high-risk [cardiovascular disease], the present study strongly adds to the evidence that long-term continuous calcium supplementation should be avoided if not mandatory,” she adds.
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