Calcium and magnesium are intricately involved in the pathways of cell death in models of stroke, and high dietary intake of these minerals has been associated with a reduced risk of experiencing a stroke according to lead scientist Bruce Ovbiagele, MD, of the Stroke Center and Department of Neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles. This association led Ovbiagele to ask whether levels of serum calcium and magnesium might predict the severity and outcome in patients presenting with a stroke.
Ovbiagele’s group studied 240 consecutive patients who were seen at the UCLA Stroke Center within 24 hours of their stroke. Patients were classified into four groups, based on the level of calcium and magnesium in their blood. Researchers measured stroke severity at the time that patients were admitted into the hospital and how well they functioned upon being discharged.
The findings indicated that while there was no correlation with magnesium, higher calcium was strongly related to both lesser severity at admission and better outcome at the time patients left the hospital. Patients with the highest calcium levels had strokes only one-third as severe as those with the lowest level, and were 50 to 70 percent less likely to have a poor functional outcome.
The results remained significant after correcting for a wide variety of other factors known to influence stroke risk and severity, including age, prior use of anti-stroke drugs, and type of stroke.
“These results suggest a connection between high calcium in the blood and reduced cell death from stroke,” said Ovbiagele. “However, it is not yet known whether modifying dietary calcium in people at risk for stroke may help protect against poor stroke outcome.”