Is Calcium Clogging Your Arteries? Nine Surprising Ways to Undo the Damage
Most of us don’t associate calcium with heart health. But according to Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, calcium can have a surprisingly dangerous impact on your arteries.
Jo-Carolyn Goode | 10/9/2014, 11:01 a.m.
Henderson, NV (October 2014)—We’re all familiar with the statistics: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. That’s why so many of us incorporate healthy eating, exercise, and preventative screening into our lifestyles. However, your heart-focused diligence might not be as effective as you hope if you’re also practicing another “healthy” habit (this time associated with bone health) in your routine: supplementing with calcium.
Yes, you read that correctly. According to Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, most of what you think you know about calcium is incorrect.
“Not only does a high calcium intake not improve bone strength, as we’ve been repeatedly told, it fuels a dangerous calcium excess everywhere in the body, including the arteries,” says Dr. Levy, author of Death by Calcium: Proof of the Toxic Effects of Dairy and Calcium Supplements (MedFox Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-615-88960-3, $29.95, www.deathbycalcium.com). “It’s not a coincidence that measurement of calcification (yes, as in calcium!) in the arteries is used to assess the development and progress of coronary disease.”
If you’re not convinced, consider the following statistics:
Fully developed plaques in the arterial walls contain 80 times more calcium than healthy tissues.
A study of over 61,000 participants over 19 years found that taking over 1,400 mg of calcium per day had a 40 percent increase in risk of death from cardiovascular disease in general and a 114 percent increase in risk of death from a reduced flow of blood to the heart muscle.
A comprehensive review of over 15 clinical studies shows that if you take an extra 500 mg of calcium per day, you’re 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack. Dump more calcium into the cauldron and the brew becomes even deadlier.
How is this possible? The problem, says Dr. Levy, is that calcium taken in good faith “relocates” from the bones to other areas of the body.
“This release of calcium literally showers all of the other tissues and organs in the body with a chronic excess of calcium,” he explains. “And calcifications in various tissues promote a host of health problems in addition to heart disease, including strokes, cancer, and virtually all chronic diseases. In fact, high bodywide calcium levels increase all-cause mortality by 250 percent.”
The good news is you can take steps to reverse the damage calcium may be causing. Here, Dr. Levy shares nine steps to take:
Limit your dairy intake. If you drink milk as a beverage, consider replacing it with other drinks. In particular, avoid buying and drinking milk that has added vitamin D, since vitamin D, when ingested with calcium, can “overdose” the body’s calcium absorption. But here’s some good news for dairy lovers: There’s no need to cut cheese, ice cream, and other products out of your life entirely. However, it’s best to make these items a special treat instead of a daily staple. Having your favorite cheese or yogurt once every week or two will minimize the negative impact of the extra calcium.
“And one last tip: Read labels,” Dr. Levy says. “Many products that aren’t typically associated with calcium can have large amounts added to them in a presumed attempt to promote good health and make the products in question even more nutritious. Common culprits of calcium-spiking include: orange juice, non-dairy milks (such as rice milk and soymilk), tofu, canned salmon, canned beans, trail mix, and more. Incredibly, even some milk has had extra calcium added into it.”
Stop taking calcium supplements. Whether you cut back on dairy products or not, discontinue all calcium-containing supplements and antacids.
“These supplements offer virtually no health benefits and simply increase the concentration of harmful calcium deposits in your body,” Dr. Levy states. “Be sure to read your labels carefully, because many supplements have substantial amounts of calcium added into them.”
Get friendly with vitamin C. First, a little background: When a toxin enters the body, it starts a molecular “fire” that grows and spreads like a blaze through a forest. Scientists call these “fires” oxidative stress. Interestingly, chronically elevated calcium levels in and around the cells is a common denominator for most, if not all, forms of oxidative stress. Vitamin C is a powerful weapon on both these fronts, says Dr. Levy.
“As an antioxidant, it is a frontline defender against oxidative stress,” he explains. “And it also prevents calcification and calcium depositions elsewhere in the body by keeping calcium in a dissolved state. The result is that vitamin C supplementation can prevent and address cardiovascular disease and all degenerative diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis, and more.”
Increase your magnesium levels. Magnesium and calcium can be characterized as biological antagonists, with magnesium acting as a natural calcium channel blocker. In fact, their antagonism toward each other excludes the possibility of having elevated levels of both minerals simultaneously! Magnesium dissolves calcium deposits, decreases elevated intracellular calcium levels, increases bone density, decreases fracture incidence, decreases the incidence and severity of heart disease, and more.
“Regular supplementation with bioavailable forms of magnesium is of the utmost importance in treating cardiac disease,” Dr. Levy explains. “When you indulge in dairy specifically, take an extra 100 to 300 mg of magnesium glycinate beforehand. You can find magnesium glycinate at many health and vitamin stores, and you can also order it online.”
Fight unwanted calcium deposits with vitamin K. Vitamin K plays a critical role in preventing and reversing abnormal calcification in tissues outside of bone—such as arterial calcifications, which lead to increased coronary heart disease risk.
“The good news is, an increased dietary intake of vitamin K2 has been associated with lesser amounts of coronary artery calcification and a lesser incidence of coronary heart disease,” Dr. Levy says. “And vitamin K1 supplementation has been shown to slow the progression of coronary artery calcium scores over time, even in relatively low doses.”
Combat calcium with omega-3 fatty acids. We’ve all heard that omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish oil, promote brain and heart health and defend against degenerative diseases. How? In large part, they inhibit cellular uptake of calcium!
“Omega-3 fatty acids are calcium channel blockers and have demonstrated impressive results in decreasing the chances of death from heart disease,” Dr. Levy shares. “In a review of studies looking at the dietary and/or supplemental intake of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, the conclusion was that these nutrients were effective in preventing coronary events, including cardiac death, especially in persons with a high cardiovascular risk.”
Let vitamin D work for you—but first divorce it from calcium. First, it is very important that you not consume vitamin D with calcium, because vitamin D increases calcium absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. However, when taken on its own, vitamin D plays an important role in regulating calcium metabolism and is essential to total-body health. It can play a beneficial role in bone health, autoimmune diseases, immune function, cancer regulation, asthma, and yes, heart disease.
“In a study of 1,006 adults over more than six years, those in the highest quartile of vitamin D levels had a significantly decreased all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality compared to individuals in the lowest quartile of vitamin D levels,” Dr. Levy asserts. “Other researchers have also come to similar conclusions in large, long-term studies.”
Sweat it out. Believe it or not, inducing a good sweat on a regular basis can eliminate a substantial amount of calcium from your body over time. Even if you’re not a world-class endurance athlete (and let’s face it, most of us aren’t and never will be), every little bit helps. Plus, regular exercise also promotes a host of other health benefits.
“Spending some time in the sauna is also an excellent way to sweat out much of your excess calcium, as well as other toxins (like toxic metals) that may have accumulated over the years,” Dr. Levy shares. “If your budget allows, one of the best things you can do for your general health is to purchase and use an infrared sauna in your home. Just be sure to clear its use with your healthcare practitioner, as some individuals might not tolerate the stress of the heat and loss of fluids well.”
Get some help from hormones. Deficiencies of estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid hormone have all separately been shown to be associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, a condition featuring multiple significant coronary artery disease risk factors.
“Testing for a deficiency, and treating it if it’s present, can improve your cardiac health, bone health, and general health,” Dr. Levy confirms. “For optimal results, talk to a healthcare practitioner experienced in hormone replacement therapy. Ideally, hormone replacement therapy should not be aggressive or highly dosed, but approached slowly with low doses.”
“There is a clear—and clearly dangerous—relationship between calcium and heart disease,” concludes Dr. Levy. “No matter your age, lifestyle, or history of heart disease, it is in your best interest to limit your intake of calcium and reduce the impact it may be having on your coronary health.
“Before starting any new medical protocol, though, please consult with your physician to make sure the treatment and—if applicable—dosage is right for you,” he adds. “And while addressing calcium levels is an important part of fighting heart disease, remember that this is not the only factor in getting and staying heart healthy.”
About the Author:
Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, is the author of Death by Calcium: Proof of the Toxic Effects of Dairy and Calcium Supplements. He is a board-certified cardiologist and is also the author of Primal Panacea and Curing the Incurable: Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins; plus three other groundbreaking medical books. He is one of the world’s leading vitamin C experts and frequently lectures to medical professionals all over the globe about the proper role of vitamin C and antioxidants in the treatment of a host of medical conditions and diseases.
For more information, please visit www.deathbycalcium.com