To protect your brain, watch where you get your calcium

Certain supplements are a must-have for healthy aging. Like calcium, for example.

The older you get, the higher your risk of developing osteoporosis. And taking a calcium supplement, along with that all-important vitamin D, can help curb that risk.

In fact, your doctor may even recommend you take as much as 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium per day to keep osteoporosis at bay.

But, it turns out, that taking a calcium supplement for healthy bones could put another crucial body part at risk… your brain.

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Calcium supplements lead to dementia for some women

A study published in the journal Neurology found that taking a calcium supplement puts some women at a greater risk for developing dementia.

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden tracked the health of 700 dementia-free women between the ages of 70 and 92 for five years. At the end of the study, women who took calcium supplements were twice as likely to develop dementia as those who didn’t.

But before you toss your calcium supplement in the trash, there’s something else you should know…

When these researchers analyzed their data further, they noticed a common trait shared by all of the women who took calcium supplements and eventually developed dementia…

They had cerebrovascular disease.

Cerebrovascular disease is a condition where you’re not getting blood flow to certain parts of your brain. It can be caused by stroke or other diseases like atherosclerosis. Doctors can tell you have it when they see white matter lesions on a brain scan.

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And apparently, it’s a disease that doesn’t mix well with a daily calcium pill…

Women with a history of stroke who took calcium supplements were a whopping seven times more likely to get dementia than women with a history of stroke who didn’t take calcium supplements.

And women with white matter lesions who took calcium supplements were three times as likely to develop dementia as women with white matter lesions who didn’t take calcium supplements.

So if you have a history of stroke or cerebrovascular disease of any kind, the reward of taking calcium supplements is probably not worth the price you may have to pay… the loss of your memory and cognitive abilities. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need calcium for your bone health…

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Food sources are better for calcium

Researchers did say that dietary calcium is not dangerous to people with cerebrovascular disease. That’s because your body processes calcium supplements differently than it does calcium from food.

In fact, they said dietary calcium probably even helps your brain if you’ve had vascular problems. So play it safe and get a healthy dose of calcium from your food every day. Some great sources of dietary calcium are:

  • Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.)
  • Dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, collard greens, etc.)
  • Bok choy
  • Tofu or edamame
  • Sardines
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges
  • Almonds

And it wouldn’t hurt to make sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin K2. K2 helps direct calcium to your bones, where it’s needed, so you have less risk of rogue calcium in other parts of your body, especially your arteries where it can contribute to plaque buildup.

For the highest dietary source of vitamin K2, consider adding natto to your diet.

Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!

Sources:
  1. “Osteoporosis.” Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  2. Kern, et al. “Calcium supplementation and risk of dementia in women with cerebrovascular disease.” Neurology, August 2016.
  3. “What is cerebrovascular disease? What causes cerebrovascular disease?” Medical News Today. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com. Retrieved August 18, 2016.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.