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Calcium is needed for your heart and bones. Calcium supplements have been looked at to see if they are causing more harm than good. Julia Zumpano, a registered dietitian in the Department of Preventive Cardiology, talks about the importance of calcium and how to get it naturally though the foods you eat. Learn more about the Preventive Cardiology Program at Cleveland Clinic.

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All About Calcium in Your Diet and Heart Health

Podcast Transcript


Welcome to Love Your Heart, brought to you by Cleveland Clinic Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute. These podcasts will help you learn more about your heart, thoracic and vascular systems, ways to stay healthy, and information about diseases and treatment options. Enjoy.

Julia Zumpano, RD, LD:

Hello, my name is Julia Zumpano. I am a registered dietitian with the Department of Preventive Cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic. Today, I'm going to discuss calcium and calcium supplements. There has been recent studies that have shown that taking supplemental calcium can lead to heart valve problems which can eventually lead to heart failure. Oftentimes, older adults are taking calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis, which is the thinning of the bones or bone loss. But recent studies have indicated that that is not a safe way to obtain adequate amounts of calcium. Doctors are now advising to consume calcium through your diet. Calcium is a mineral that's needed to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps blood to clot normally, muscles and nerves to function properly, and the heart to beat normally. Most of the calcium in your body is found inside your bones. If you do not get enough calcium, your body takes calcium from your bones, then therefore putting you at risk for the osteoporosis, the weak or thin bones. Not getting enough calcium can also increase your risk for high blood pressure. The amount of calcium that one may need varies by age and sex.

Julia Zumpano, RD, LD:

On average, older adults need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. That can be consumed through the diet. Two to four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day can help you get enough calcium in your diet. The best sources of calcium are dairy-rich foods including milk, yogurt, cheese, and plant-based milks such as almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk or coconut milk that have calcium added. Vitamin D can help your body use and absorb calcium. Vitamin D is mainly obtained from being outdoors in the sun. But Vitamin D can also be found in fatty fish. Salmon or tuna or swordfish, beef liver, mushrooms and egg yolks have small amounts of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is also added to most milk, but usually not added to foods that are made from milk, like cheese or ice cream. Vitamin D can also be fortified in breakfast cereals and some brands of orange juice, yogurt or margarines.

Julia Zumpano, RD, LD:

So definitely focus on getting in enough calcium through your diet. So we know dairy products have calcium, but if one is lactose-intolerant or cannot handle dairy products or chooses to avoid dairy, then we need to look to other meats. If you are lactose intolerant, you can choose lactose-free varieties of dairy products, such as lactose-free milk, lactose-free cheese or yogurt, or cottage cheese. You can also choose milk alternatives, such as the soy, almond, rice, hemp or cashew milks. There are several other varieties on the market. Those would be also acceptable for vegans and vegetarians.

Julia Zumpano, RD, LD:

Non-dairy sources of calcium include dark, leafy green vegetables, such as kale, collard greens, spinach, broccoli, dried beans and peas, canned salmon with soft bones, sardines, fruit juices with added calcium, blackstrap molasses, almonds, and tofu processed with calcium. For the best absorption of calcium, limit calcium to 600 milligrams at a time. Typically if you're consuming this through the diet, that shouldn't be a problem. But some supplemental forms of calcium in the form of a milk alternative or foods that are fortified, may meet the 600 milligram dosage of calcium in one serving. So keep in mind not to exceed one serving of that food at a time, but best to separate those two servings and have them at different times of the day.

Julia Zumpano, RD, LD:

Now that you know how to get calcium in your diet, get started on working on getting two to four servings of calcium-rich foods every day, without any negative effects and with a lot of positive benefits to your bones, heart and overall health. Thanks.


Thank you for listening. We hope you enjoyed the podcast. We welcome your comments and feedback. Please contact us at Like what you heard? Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, or listen at

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Love Your Heart

A Cleveland Clinic podcast to help you learn more about heart and vascular disease and conditions affecting your chest. We explore prevention, diagnostic tests, medical and surgical treatments, new innovations and more. 

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