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Surprising Side Effects of Supplements After Age 50

These supplements are downright dangerous to your health.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

With the risk of health conditions such as dementia, heart disease, and diabetes rising after 50, it can be tempting to reach for over-the-counter supplements to help prevent some of these diseases. "While your body can get rid of many excess vitamins and minerals, there are some that stay in your body and do damage," says Dr. Minesh P. Amin, DO. "In addition, supplements can interfere with some medicines and even make you ill." Here are five surprising side effects of supplements after age 50, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Calcium

Calcium supplement tablet pills on dark wooden background
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Calcium is important for bone mass and to help prevent osteoporosis, but calcium supplements can be dangerous: Studies show taking too many can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. "More and more studies are showing increased risks for heart attack and stroke among men and women taking calcium 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams (mg) per day which was previously recommended," says functional medicine specialist Melissa Young, MD. "We recommend obtaining the majority of your calcium needs from food. The body absorbs and utilizes calcium better from food than from supplements."

2

St John's Wort

Fresh St. John's wort flowers in a bowl, top view
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St. John's Wort is commonly used as a treatment for depression, but it can have concerning effects on prescription medication. "St. John's wort has been associated with very serious and potentially dangerous interactions with many common drugs," warns Cleveland Clinic. "St. John's wort can weaken how well other drugs work, including antidepressants, birth control pills, cyclosporine (an anti-rejection drug), digoxin (a heart drug), HIV drugs, cancer medications, and blood thinners such as Coumadin."

3

Ginkgo

ohio ginko
Stacy J./ Yelp

Ginkgo biloba has been used to treat age-related memory loss, but it's another supplement that may cause serious issues with prescription medications. "Garlic, ginger or ginkgo extracts could potentially interact with blood thinners and increase the risk of bleeding," says internal medicine specialist Ronan Factora, MD.

4

Iron

assortment of red pills and capsules of iron supplements
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"Iron is needed to make red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body," says Clare Collins, FRSN, FAHMS, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle. "However, too much iron is toxic. Excess iron gets deposited in your organs, and this then interferes with normal body functions, as well as the production of hormones that regulate your metabolism and sex drive. Not surprisingly, you don't feel well."

5

Vitamin E

Worried about heart health as you get older? Be careful with Vitamin E supplements. "Patients who are under medical care for heart-related health issues are strongly discouraged from using vitamin E," says cardiologist Leslie Cho, MD. "Don't take chances with your heart, and make sure to run anything by your doctor that you plan to put into your body." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan