A new study is raising national concerns about the safety of calcium, which many women take to keep their bones healthy and strong.

According to data from more than 16,000 women, calcium supplements may increase a women’s risk of heart attack or stroke.

Women who were not previously taking calcium but started as a part of the study increased their risk of heart disease by 13 to 22 percent, according to researchers.

The risk increased regardless of whether the women were taking the calcium alone or in conjunction with vitamin D.

Researchers speculated that suddenly increasing calcium intake may promote calcification, or hardening, of the arteries. It also may make blood clots more likely.

However, I would advise women to hold off on tossing out their calcium supplements. Calcium is crucial in protecting bones, especially among the youngest and oldest groups of women.

In considering this study, I think the points to remember are the following:

-All these women were in the menopausal phase of their lives.

-Many of them may have had underlying cardiovascular problems. We know that, in many instances, the build-up of calcium deposits can be a precursor for coronary artery obstruction.

-We have no data on the metabolic conditions of these patients, which includes their calcium levels and vitamin D levels.

Even though I agree with the conclusion that post-menopausal women should be very careful and consult their doctors about taking calcium supplements, I don’t believe these results should prevent younger women, adolescents and children from taking calcium.

The bottom line is that calcium is an essential nutrient that ought to be included as part of a proper, balanced diet. If not, it needs to be considered as a supplement. As always, consult your doctor before adding a nutritional supplement to your diet.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.