ISLAMABAD – People who take calcium supplements could be increasing their risk of having a heart attack, according to researchers in Germany.

Calcium is often taken by older people to strengthen bones and prevent fractures while experts believe that it should betaken with caution, BBC health reported. Experts say promoting a balanced diet including calcium would be a better strategy. The researchers at the German Cancer Research Centre, in Heidelberg, followed 23,980 people for more than a decade. They compared the number of heart attacks in people who were taking calcium supplements with those who did not.

There were 851 heart attacks among the 15,959 people who did not take any supplements at all. However, people taking calcium supplements were 86% more likely to have had a heart attack during the study. The researchers said that heart attacks “might be substantially increased by taking calcium supplements” and that they “should be taken with caution”.

It is need to determine whether the potential risks of the supplements outweigh the benefits calcium can give sufferers of conditions such as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a real issue for women and it is irresponsible for scientists to advise that women cut out calcium supplements on the basis of one flawed survey, particularly when the link between calcium, vitamin D and bone health is endorsed by the European Food Safety Authority.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said patients prescribed the supplements should keep taking their medication, but should also speak to their doctor if they were concerned. This research indicates that there may be an increased risk of having a heart attack for people who take calcium supplements. A healthy balanced diet will provide all the nutrients, including calcium, that they need. Good sources of calcium include milk and dairy foods, fortified dairy food alternatives, such as soda drink, and green leafy vegetables.

Stress, depression may affect cancer survival

“A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ,” John Steinbeck once wrote. Now we are closer to understanding why. A disease like cancer can be a mortal battle, often fraught with overwhelming stress. Given that stress management can be difficult even under ordinary circumstances, elevated feelings of anxiety and depression in cancer patients are certainly understandable.

Yet, several recent studies underscore how critically important it is for those fighting illness to learn how to combat stress.

A team of researchers led by Lorenzo Cohen, professor of general oncology and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, found that symptoms of depression among a group of patients with late-stage renal cell carcinoma were associated with an increased risk of death. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE in August.

The chief suspects in Cohen’s study: cortisol — also known as the “stress hormone” — and inflammatory pathways.

“This study is the next step in the process of understanding that emotional factors have an impact on biology, which can, in turn, influence outcomes in cancer,” says Cohen. Cortisol is the hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress. It helps regulate the inflammatory response in the body.

According to Cohen, under normal circumstances cortisol levels should be high in the morning and drop throughout the course of the day. But among patients experiencing chronic stress or depressive symptoms, cortisol levels can remain sustained throughout the day, with less of a decrease in the evening.

In the study, those patients with sustained cortisol levels throughout the day had an increased risk of mortality. Through gene profile analyses of patients, the researchers documented that the association between patient psychological condition and survival time may stem from a dysregulation in inflammatory biology.

Secondhand smoke linked to memory problems

Regular exposure to secondhand smoke has a negative effect on brain function, according to a new British study that found people who live with or spend a significant amount of time with a smoker are damaging their memories.

“According to recent reports by the World Health Organization, exposure to secondhand smoke can have serious consequences on the health of people who have never smoked themselves, but who are exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke,” Dr. Tom Heffernan, a researcher at the Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group at Northumbria University, said in a university news release. “Our findings suggest that the deficits associated with secondhand smoke exposure extend to everyday cognitive function.”

The researchers compared a group of smokers with two groups of nonsmokers. Participants in one nonsmoking group were exposed to secondhand smoke either at home or in a “smoking area” for an average of 25 hours a week for an average 4.5 years. Those in the other nonsmoking group were not routinely exposed to secondhand smoke.

Study participants from all three groups took a time-based memory test, which required them to perform a task after a set period of time. The also had to recall planned activities in an event-based memory test, which focuses on memory for future intentions.

Nonsmokers who were exposed to secondhand smoke forgot almost 20 percent more in the memory tests than the other nonsmoking group did, the study revealed.

Smokers performed the worst of all on the memory tests. They forgot 30 percent more than those who were not exposed to secondhand smoke.

“We hope our work will stimulate further research in the field in order to gain a better understanding of the links between exposure to secondhand smoke, health problems and everyday cognitive function,” Heffernan said.

The study was recently published online in the journal Addiction.

While the study found an association between secondhand smoke exposure and worse memory function, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.