Can Calcium Predict Longevity?

Posted by Meghan Orner on August 05, 2015

Can Calcium Predict Longevity?

Growing up, most of us were probably told to always drink our milk. After all, milk grows strong bones and promotes our overall development due to its high levels in calcium, magnesium and protein. All of these minerals, particularly calcium, are essential for our health, but according to a new study, too much calcium in major arteries may play a huge role in determining one’s early mortality risk.

The New Calcium Test

Published in the medicine journal Annals of Internal Medicine, the study revealed how calcium predicts longevity through a test that is now referred to as the coronary calcium scan. Even though the idea of using a coronary calcium scan to predict longevity is new, a regular CAT scan is used to locate calcium deposits inside the three major arteries that are responsible for carrying blood away from the heart.

To determine if and how calcium predicts longevity, researchers tracked 9,715 healthy patients who participated in a cardiology outreach screening program between 1996 and 1999. Over the next 15 years, researchers analyzed the health of these participants and paid close attention to the cause of death for the 936 participants who died.

At the conclusion of the study, researchers revealed that the participants with large amounts of calcium deposits in their arteries had an early mortality risk that was six times greater than those without these deposits. According to the study’s lead author and professor of cardiology at Emory University Leslee Shaw, these calcium deposits are a result of plaque buildup on the artery walls and can lead to a major increase in one’s risk of a heart attack, stroke and heart disease.

However, this is not the first time that researchers have acknowledged the importance of monitoring calcium levels in major arteries. Since the 1990s, doctors have known that CAT scans are capable of detecting calcified plaques in arteries, which could help determine if the arteries were becoming stiff, but this is the first study to conclude that calcium predicts longevity.

For those with high amounts of calcium deposits in their major arteries, Shaw recommends exercise, a healthy diet and proper medications to treat high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol and other heart risk factors.

Fueling Up on Calcium

After this study revealed that calcium predicts longevity, now the real question is how do you know if you’re consuming too much calcium? Interestingly enough, the suggested amount of daily calcium consumption actually varies by age and gender. Below are the suggested amounts according to WebMD:

  • Adult men aged 51-70: 1,000 milligrams
  • Adult women aged 51-70: 1,200 milligrams
  • Adult men and women aged 71+: 1,200 milligrams

So now that you know how much calcium you should be consuming on a daily basis, here’s a list of high-calcium foods that will help you reach your mark:

Dairy Products:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt

Plant Foods:

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Chinese cabbage

Other Foods:

  • Orange juice
  • Oatmeal
  • Certain breakfast cereals

Some items on this list probably come as no shock, but having a variety of high-calcium foods in your daily regiment can keep your diet from getting too repetitive or boring, so don’t be afraid to mix it up and enjoy!


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