We all know we need calcium for strong bones. However, recent headlines have pointed to concerns that calcium supplements may raise your risk of heart disease.\nUnderstanding Your Calcium Needs\nMost of us rely on food sources to get the calcium we need. If your body doesn’t get enough calcium, it takes it from your bones, causing them to lose mass and become weaker over time. This can, in turn, lead to health problems such as osteoporosis.\nOur calcium needs increase with age:\n\nWomen younger than 50 and men under 70 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily.\nWomen older than 50 and men older than 70 need 1,200 milligrams daily.\nThat amount should be spread throughout the day.\n\nYour body also needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. That’s why many foods are fortified with both.\nCalcium Supplements and Heart Health\nSome people take supplements when they aren’t able to get enough calcium through food. There’s been some recent concern that supplements may hurt your heart health.\nOne study in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) found that people who took calcium supplements were more likely to develop heart disease. However, in the same study, people who had the highest calcium intake, even with the help of supplements, had lower rates of heart disease. It also found that those who took more than 1,400 milligrams of calcium per day through supplements had higher rates of heart disease and other problems.\nIn another study, the National Osteoporosis Foundation and the American Society for Preventive Cardiology brought a panel of experts together with an independent review team to analyze the impact of calcium on cardiovascular health. Based on their findings, both organizations believe that calcium intake from food or supplements will neither harm nor help improve cardiovascular health in generally healthy adults.\nFeeling confused?\nThe primary concern with supplements is that they may cause more plaque to build up in your arteries, leading to heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. This may be because your body doesn’t know how to handle the supplements as well as it does calcium from food.\nNo studies have shown negative effects when getting calcium from food. In fact, the JAHA study found that those who met their calcium needs through food sources alone saw the most benefit and had a lower risk of developing heart disease.\u00a0 Also note, the study was not designed to prove that the supplements were the cause of increased heart disease. \u00a0More research is needed to know for sure.\nGetting Enough Calcium\nGetting your calcium intake through food is always best. Pay attention to your diet and talk with your registered dietitian or doctor about where you might be falling short.\nChange up your diet to include more calcium-rich foods, such as fat-free milk, low-fat cheese, yogurt, or green leafy vegetables. Also, include vitamin D sources (ex. fortified dairy, salmon, eggs) and get a little safe sun exposure to help you to use the calcium you take in.\nRELATED:\u00a0Lactose Intolerant? Get Your Calcium Fix Without Consuming Dairy\nIf you and your doctor feel you need a supplement, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends starting with a small dose of about 200 to 300 milligrams daily, taken with food. Work your way up to what’s needed. Your body is able to absorb small amounts at a time, taken throughout the day.\nCalcium and vitamin D needs vary from person to person. Be sure to talk with your doctor about your risk for heart disease and osteoporosis to decide what’s best for you. Supplements should always be used with the advice of your doctor to make sure they don’t interfere with any other medications you’re taking.