Extra calcium: Do you really need it?

We don’t want to suffer the risk of osteoporosis—a disease where bones become brittle and break easily—or get a fracture, so our first instinct is to swallow a calcium pill.  But before you pop up a supplement pill, know that it may be more harmful than good. Read on to know why and how much you need.
Why is excess calcium bad?

High amounts of calcium, especially when consumed as supplements, can cause high blood pressure, kidney malfunctioning—or even failure, and cardiovascular problems.

Natural sources are the best

Including calcium rich food in your diet is a good way to overcome its deficiency. Milk and other dairy products, green leafy vegetables, and fish are all good sources of calcium. In fact the natural calcium derived from tofu and fortified cereals offer myriad health benefits.

If you are vegan, you can include calcium-rich non-dairy products like almonds, beans, fortified orange juice, spinach, Swiss chard, tofu, etc. in your daily diet.

The daily requirement
Osteoporosis currently affects almost 10 million Americans, and docs often recommend calcium supplementation to stave off the disease. Do not, however, ever take these supplements on your own, or the problems can be immense.
Current Physician Practice guidelines advise healthy women above 51 years and men above 71 years or above need approximately 1,200mg a day of calcium. Younger adults of both sexes need only 1,000mg a day. Those suffering from osteoporosis need almost 1,500mg a day.
A cup of milk, a bowl of yogurt, and a cup of fortified orange juice can provide 1,000 mg of calcium.
Why you need dietary supplements
As we age, our bodies stop absorbing the calcium from the foods, because of which they may be advised by their physician to take supplements to reduce the risk of weakened and broken bones. The problem starts when we start consuming more calcium than our body needs.
What the studies suggest
Studies indicating that calcium supplements can shorten the life span are now putting people on edge. According to a recent research—published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology—consumption of calcium supplements has become quite rampant; and pregnant and post menopausal women are at the highest risk.
People taking calcium supplements may not necessarily live longer than those who get their nutrients from food alone. In fact, according to study published in the journal Heart, calcium supplement users are at an 86 percent higher risk of heart attack. This study was based on the data received from nearly 24,000 European men and women between the ages 35 to 64 years. These participants were asked to fill food questionnaires that included their calcium intake, and they were then followed for 11 years. The researchers, however, say that the study is not conclusive, and more research needs to be conducted.
What next
Before you pop up a calcium pill the next time, consult your physician about if you really need a supplement, and if yes, check the exact dose you need.