When You Don't Get Enough Calcium, This Is What Happens To Your Blood Pressure

When you think about one of the biggest factors that increase your blood pressure, too much sodium in your diet might come to mind. Most Americans consume too much sodium in their diets, which might explain why almost half of the U.S. population has high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To lower your blood pressure without medication, the CDC recommends cutting back on sodium and eating more potassium-rich foods such as bananas, black beans, and yogurt. Potassium works to lower your blood pressure by balancing out your fluid levels and helping to rid your body of excess sodium. Diets aimed to lower your blood pressure such as the DASH eating plan specifically target foods rich in potassium, magnesium, fiber, and calcium while reducing sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day. Why calcium? Calcium helps your arteries properly constrict and release. If your diet is low in calcium, you might find your blood pressure to be higher.

How calcium affects blood pressure

Calcium is often thought of as the mineral that protects your bones, but it does so much more, according to a 2019 review in Nutrients. When you don't get enough calcium, your parathyroid gland releases a hormone that conserves the calcium in your body but constricts your blood vessels. A low-calcium diet also releases calcitriol, which also affects your blood pressure function.

A 2019 review in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at multiple studies concerned with calcium intake and the risk of hypertension. Among almost 250,000 people, those who had the most calcium in their diets had an 11% lower risk of high blood pressure than those whose diets were low in calcium. The more calcium-rich foods, the better. For every 500 milligrams of calcium you have in your diet, your risk of hypertension goes down by 7%.

Low-calcium diets might also be linked to body mass index, according to a 2016 article in Public Health Nutrition. People who had elevated blood pressure and a BMI of 25 or higher tended to have significantly lower amounts of calcium in their diets. Obesity and high blood pressure are two factors that increase your risk of heart disease.

Calcium supplements may not lower blood pressure

You might assume that boosting your calcium intake with a calcium supplement would help your blood pressure. Not much, says a 2017 review in the Journal of Human Hypertension. Out of eight controlled trials involving more than 36,000 people, taking calcium supplements didn't have a significant effect on blood pressure, although men had a slight increase in systolic blood pressure. A 2022 study in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that calcium supplements might cause a reduction in systolic blood pressure by 1.37 and diastolic by 1.45. The effect of calcium supplements was higher for people younger than 35 and men.

Rather than rely on calcium supplements, you can get plenty of calcium each day from food. Most adults need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, with women over 50 and adults over 70 needing 1,200. A cup of low-fat milk, 1 ounce of romano cheese, or a 6-ounce container of yogurt gets you about 30% of your daily calcium. Vegetarians could turn to a cup of tofu for half their calcium. A half cup of cooked kale gives you almost 10% of your calcium.