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Calcium Pills May Increase Heart Attack Risk

A German study followed 24,000 men and women, ages 35 to 64, for 11 years and found that those who took calcium supplements were 86 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who do not (Heart, published online May 23, 2012). More than 60 percent of North American women over 60 take calcium supplements to help prevent bone fractures (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, 2011).

In the study from Germany, there was no significant difference in death from stroke or heart attack no matter how much calcium people got FROM FOODS. There was even a suggestion that increased calcium intake from foods was associated with increased heart attack risk. Other factors that increase heart attack risk were excluded from the study.

Another study showed that calcium pills may reduce fractures by 10 percent, but can INCREASE risk for heart attacks by 25 percent (British Medial Journal, published online July 2010). Thus if 1,000 people were given calcium for five years, there would be 26 fractures prevented but there would also be 14 heart attacks, 10 strokes and 13 deaths more than in people not taking calcium pills.

OTHER STUDIES SHOW THAT TOO MUCH CALCIUM FROM FOOD AND PILLS INCREASES HEART ATTACK RISK: Eight studies followed more than 10,000 patients, average age of 68 years, for an average 3.8 years, taking 500 to 1400 mg calcium daily. They had 1.3 times the chance of suffering a heart attack as people taking no calcium pills. Those taking more than 805 mg calcium per day from food without pills were 1.86 times more likely to suffer heart attacks (British Medical Journal, 2010;341:3691).

HOW TOO MUCH CALCIUM CAN CAUSE HEART ATTACKS: Calcium supplements raise blood calcium levels which increases chances of forming clots, a major cause of heart attacks and strokes (J Bone Miner Res. 1997;12:1959-70). Calcium supplements can thicken neck artery plaques (Atherosclerosis, 2007;194:426-32) and calcify main arteries (J Bone Miner Res, 2010;25:505-12). Taking calcium without also taking vitamin D increases heart attack risk even further, because calcium blocks the activation of vitamin D to cause a relative deficiency of that vitamin.

TOO MUCH VITAMIN D RAISES CALCIUM: Vitamin D markedly increases calcium absorption to raise blood calcium levels. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen followed almost 250,000 people and found that people with blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D below 10 nmol/L were 2.3 times more likely to die prematurely and those with levels above 140 nmol/L were 1.42 times more likely to die prematurely (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, published online May 2012). So both low and high calcium levels are harmful.

GET YOUR CALCIUM FROM FOOD, NOT PILLS: Adult men and women need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily, according to the National Institutes of Health. You get that amount from a cup of yogurt, a glass of milk and a slice of cheese. If you avoid dairy products, you could meet your calcium requirement with a bowl of enriched cereal, a glass of fortified orange juice, half a cup of tofu and a piece of salmon.

GET YOUR VITAMIN D FROM SUN OR PILLS: You cannot meet your needs for vitamin D from foods. You have to depend on the sun or pills. Get a blood test for hydroxy vitamin D. If it is above 75 nmol/L, you are fine. If it is above 140 nmol/L, you are taking overdoses of vitamin D and should reduce your intake of vitamin D pills.

If your blood level of hydroxy vitamin D is below 50 nmol/L, you need more sunlight or you can try taking up to 2000 IU of vitamin D per day for a month. Once blood levels of vitamin D are above 50 nmol/l, you should reduce your intake of the pills to 1000 IU per day or less.


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New Treatment for Lack of Orgasm or Delayed Orgasm in Men

Urologists from Baylor Medical School presented a paper at the American Urological Association meeting in Atlanta (April 19-23, 2012, Abstract 1495) showing that 50 of 72 men (70 percent), average age of 63, had improvement in orgasms, and 26 of the 50 had complete return of normal orgasm during treatment with cabergoline pills (brand name Dostinex). Those who also took the male hormone, testosterone, were the most likely to regain orgasms with cabergoline.

CAUSES OF DELAYED ORGASM: With aging, some men take forever to climax. Others suffer markedly delayed orgasms and inability to have them after surgery, radiation, or drug treatments for prostate cancer. Antipsychotic drugs, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors and those that are not prolactin sparing, also can prevent a man from having an orgasm.

• Just BEFORE an orgasm, men usually have high blood levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine increases nerve stimulation.
• Just AFTER an orgasm, men usually have high blood levels of hormone called prolactin, produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. This is associated with not being able to have an erection or ejaculation and having markedly reduced sexual desire and excitement.

Dopamine is associated with having an orgasm, and prolactin is associated with preventing one. Cabergoline raises dopamine and lowers prolactin. It inhibits prolactin-secreting cells in the pituitary and is even used to treat pituitary tumors that produce too much prolactin.

THE STUDY: All men in the study received cabergoline 0.5 mg twice a week for an average of 300 days. No serious side effects were reported. Some men reported headache and dizziness. Patients with heart-valve disease should not be given cabergoline.


New Treatment for Decreased Sexual Desire in Women

Another paper presented at the same American Urological Association meeting in Atlanta showed that topical alprostadil (Femprex) cream increased sexual desire in women (April 19-23, 2012, abstract #1498). The greatest improvement was in women younger than 45 who were treated with the highest concentration of the medication.

Doctors prescribe alprostadil injections for inability to have an erection in men. Recently alprostadil has been placed in a cream (Femprox) with another drug to help it pass through the skin. This cream widens blood vessels, relaxes muscles in the sexual organs, and increases blood flow to the genitals. Men apply the cream to the head of the penis. The higher dose developed for women is applied to the clitoris and deep inside the anterior vaginal wall. The use of this cream was reported previously to increase sexual desire and satisfaction in women (J Sex Med 2008; 5: 1923-1931). In this new study, fifty-three percent of women in the alprostadil groups had improvement in satisfactory sexual encounters, compared with 33 percent of women given a placebo.


Intense Exercise More Effective than Just Exercising in Preventing
and Treating Diabetes

In the last few years, 24 studies have compared the effects of high to low intensity exercises on health. The authors who reviewed these studies defined high intensity training as repeat brief periods of very vigorous exercise, followed by low intensity recovery periods (Sports Medicine, Auckland, N.Z., June, 2012;42(6):489-509). For example, the subjects would exercise intensely until the muscles start to burn, then slow down until the burn goes away and repeat this series until the legs start to stiffen. These short periods of intense exercise would allow even untrained individuals to work harder than they would otherwise because they rested between each short burst of intensity.

The programs lasted from two weeks to six months. All of the studies showed that high intensity exercise promoted much higher levels of physical fitness and all studies showed marked improvement in insulin sensitivity. This means that high- intensity exercise could lower high blood sugar levels in the 35 percent of North Americans who are either pre-diabetic or diabetic.

It took at least 12 weeks of high intensity training (HIT) to bring high fasting blood sugars down to normal, and eight weeks of HIT to improve the good HDL cholesterol. It took at least 12 weeks to lower high blood pressure in all participants, and to reduce body weight in overweight subjects. High intensity exercise did not improve total cholesterol, the bad LDL cholesterol or triglycerides.

INTENSE EXERCISE MORE EFFECTIVE IN PROLONGING LIFE: In another study, researchers compared intensity of exercise with age of death in 7456 men and women followed for five years (American Journal of Public Health. April, 2012;102(4):698-704). Those who exercised at least one hour per week had a 33 percent lower risk of death during that period and those who had a regular sports routine were even less likely to die during that period.


Recipe of the Week:

Shrimp Jambalaya

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June 3rd, 2012
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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