Eating More Foods High in Calcium May Help Prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
November 7, 2017
High Calcium Foods and Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest is scary: Someone collapses. They have no pulse, they’re not breathing, and they have a complete loss of consciousness. Their heart has suddenly and unexpectedly stopped beating. Usually, they die. In fact, about 350,000 Americans will suffer a sudden cardiac arrest this year, and only 10 percent will survive.

And what’s really frightening about sudden cardiac arrest is more than 50 percent of men and 70 percent of women who experience one do not have a prior history of heart disease or even warning signs of an impending problem.

What are the causes of a sudden cardiac arrest?

Unlike a heart attack where blood flow the heart is blocked, in sudden cardiac arrest the heart malfunctions, usually due to an abnormal heart rhythm.

The sinus node, located in the upper right chamber of the heart, generates electrical impulses that synchronize heart rate and blood flow. If something interferes with these electrical impulses, it can throw your heart rate off its normal rhythm. Many times this change in rhythm only lasts a moment. But it can also progress into an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.

You may be able to feel when your rhythm is off – whether your heart rate slow, speeds up, flutters or skips. But arrhythmias also can be silent.   

Genetics and lifestyle often contribute to arrhythmia. But so can nutrition. Calcium, for example, has major role in regulating heart rate. Researchers have known the connection between low calcium levels and arrhythmias for 15 years, but a new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that lower calcium levels may be a stand-alone risk factor for sudden cardiac arrest.

Calcium & Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention

More research is needed; in this study, researchers weren’t able to say which calcium level was too low—they found higher risks for sudden cardiac arrest among patients whose blood serum calcium levels were in the normal range.

Worried about your calcium level? Discuss your calcium with your doctor. He or she may suggest a calcium supplement.

But you can easily add it to your diet with these foods high in calcium: In addition to supplements, these calcium-rich foods:

  • Dairy products: milk, cheeses and yogurt
  • Leafy greens: collard greens, kale, bok choy
  • Vegetables: broccoli, broccoli rabe, okra and edamame
  • Fish: canned salmon and sardines

To learn more about preventing sudden cardiac arrest and arrhythmias, talk to your MDVIP-affiliated physician. Looking for a primary care physician? Physicians in MDVIP-affiliated practices can customize a wellness plan for you that includes preventing and controlling prediabetes and diabetes. Find an MDVIP affiliate near you and begin your partnership in health »

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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