Is Your Calcium Supplement Increasing your Risk of Stroke?
Women of menopausal age are advised to take calcium supplements as a way to prevent osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to lose density and increase the risk of fractures. However, taking calcium alone may not be enough to support bone health. In fact, it may also increase the risk of heart disease and even stroke.
When you consume foods with calcium or take a calcium supplement, it dissolves in the stomach and is absorbed through the lining of the small intestine before it enters the bloodstream. However, not all calcium is deposited into the bones after passing through the bloodstream. Some calcium can actually buildup as plaque in the coronary arteries, the two major arteries leading to the heart. For proper calcium deposition to occur, two key vitamins are needed in addition to calcium, Vitamin K2 and Vitamin D.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is made by the human body when UV light enters the skin and interacts with cholesterol. Most people in North America become Vitamin D deficient in the winter without supplementation, either through diet or through taking a supplement. Vitamin D does wonders for your body. It can keep your immune system healthy, prevent inflammation, and prevent your body from developing illnesses and infections.
Vitamin D can be found in a variety of sources. Foods rich in Vitamin D include dairy products (milk and cheese), and fish (cod, trout, salmon). When individuals can't get enough Vitamin D from their food sources, they can get it from Vitamin D supplements.
What is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K can be found in multiple systems throughout the body, particularly the liver, pancreas, brain, heart, and bones. It not only helps with calcium deposition, but it also plays an essential role in blood clotting. Vitamin K deficiency is considered fairly rare, but as we age, it may become difficult for our bodies to produce Vitamin K as efficiently.
Luckily, vegetables are an excellent source of Vitamin K. This is especially true for leafy greens. Kale, collard greens, spinach, and so on can give you well over 100% of your daily value per serving. Of course, for those with Vitamin K deficiencies or individuals who don't consume enough Vitamin K from food alone, supplements are a viable option to combat this problem.
How Do They Support Heart Health?
When calcium builds up along the lining of the arterial walls of the heart, this can cause something called coronary artery calcification (CAC). When this buildup of calcium occurs, it causes the blood vessels to become narrow. This narrowing creates pressure and puts a strain on the heart, which can increase the risk of heart diseases like high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, and stroke.
So, what can you do to reduce the risk of CAC? In a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, researchers observed the relationship between Vitamin D and Vitamin K and their combined impact on cardiovascular health. What they found was, when taken together, Vitamin D and Vitamin K can improve and properly regulate calcium deposition to the bones.
How does this work? There are two forms of Vitamin K, Vitamin K1, and Vitamin K2. When the body receives Vitamin K2, it uses it to create proteins that help protect the body from excess calcium. These proteins are osteocalcin and matrix GLA proteins (MGP). Both of these proteins help calcium deposition in different ways. Osteocalcin binds to calcium and gets deposited into the bones. Matrix GLA proteins go through the blood vessels and clear out any calcium that may have deposited along the blood vessel walls.
So, while Vitamin D may contribute to regulating calcium on its own, Vitamin K helps prevent calcium from building up along the arterial walls. This combined partnership between the two can help properly regulate calcium deposition and reduce the risk of CAC.
How Can This Benefit Women in Menopause?
Women in menopause are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis. Some evidence has shown that drops in estrogen can affect receptors in other parts of the body like the bones and the heart, making it more difficult for those systems to regulate themselves as efficiently.
1 in 3 female adults over the age of 50 has some form of cardiovascular disease. Heart attacks increase exponentially in women overall ten years after menopause. At the same time, around 61% of women in postmenopause are diagnosed with osteoporosis. By having a healthy intake of both Vitamin D and Vitamin K, women in menopause can prevent severe loss of bone density and reduce the risk of CAC.
If you're a menopausal woman suffering from calcium deficiency or osteoporosis, and you take a calcium supplement, ask your doctor if you are at risk of arterial calcification. Discuss what measures you can take to address your health concerns and improve your health overall.
If you would like to learn more about how Vitamin K, Vitamin D3, and Calcium work together in the body, check out this video for more detailed information. As always, if you still have questions or concerns regarding CAC and osteoporosis, talk to your doctor for professional guidance.
*All of our MenoLabs formulations include calcium, Vitamin D3, and Vitamin K2 to ensure the best bioavailability.