What Can Calcium Buildup in Heart Cause?

Calcium is the mineral that is most commonly found in the human body. The majority of it is stored in the bones, with some being stored in the blood. The calcium found in the blood helps with blood clotting, communication between nerve cells, and muscle contractions. Sometimes, however, calcium can build up around the heart valves or in the coronary arteries. When this happens, some serious health problems can occur.

What Can Calcium Buildup in Heart Cause?

In some cases, the calcium buildup won’t cause any issues at all. In some people, however, calcium deposits lead to stiffening leaflets of the valve, which in turn narrows your aortic valve and causes aortic valve stenosis. This is particularly common in those with congenitally abnormal valves like bicuspid aortic valves.

In cases where the valve is only narrowed mildly, you are unlikely to have symptoms. When the narrowing worsens, the left ventricle needs to work harder in order to pump blood into your aorta. Your ventricle wall becomes thickened and you are likely to develop symptoms like the following:

  • Faints and dizziness because of restricted blood supply, particularly upon exertion
  • Chest pain (known as angina) when you exert yourself. This happens due to the increased requirement for oxygen and reduced blood flow to your coronary arteries.
  • Irregular heartbeat which may seem like palpitations or a thumping heart

In cases of severe narrowing, the left ventricle may fail to function correctly, leading to heart failure. That will lead to fluid buildup within the various body tissues, tiredness, and shortness of breath.

The buildup is usually related to aging. It is most common in women over 75 and men over 65. It also tends to happen more earlier for those with abnormal valves. In some rare cases, it can happen earlier if you have received a chest radiation.

Do You Have Calcium Buildup in Heart?

The preferred method of checking for calcium buildup is via a coronary calcium scan. It employs special X-ray tests to check for calcium buildup on your coronary arteries. The scan helps diagnose early stages of heart disease and lets your doctor tell how severe your condition is. The result is shown with a score number.

Cardiac Calcium Score

Plaque

Risk of Coronary Artery Disease

0

No plaque identified

Very low (less than 5 percent)

1 – 10

Mild identifiable plaque

Low (less than 10 percent)

11 – 100

Mild atherosclerotic plaque

Minimal or mild coronary narrowings are likely.

101 – 400

Moderate atherosclerotic plaque

Mild coronary artery disease is highly likely and significant narrowings are possible.

Over 400

Extensive atherosclerotic plaque

More than one significant coronary narrowings

Who Should Get a Coronary Calcium Scan?

To find out if you have dangerous calcium buildup in heart, you should know whether you are at risk. Doctors typically suggest that you have the scan done if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • ┬čA women over 55 years old
  • A man over 45 years old
  • Family history with heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • No regular exercise
  • High-stress lifestyle

How to Prevent Calcium Buildup in Heart

The condition is preventable with exercise and dietary change.

Exercise

You are less likely to have calcification if your aortic arteries remain clean and flexible. Exercise is the best way to reach this goal and the American Heart Association suggests getting 150 minutes’ worth of moderate exercise weekly. Some good examples of this are playing sports, dancing, swimming, biking, running, jogging, and walking. Ask your doctor about the level of exercise that is safe for you to do. Some patients will need to avoid more intense activities due to health risks.

Dietary Changes

You can also reduce your risk of both calcium buildup and arteriosclerosis by eating nutritious foods and following a generally healthy diet.

  • Make sure that you have between five and nine servings of fresh vegetables and fruits every day as a way to reduce your risk.
  • Eating whole grains like whole-wheat pasta and oatmeal can also sometimes reverse the calcium deposits already formed in your hearts.
  • You should also limit your consumption of alcohol and opt for foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat.

How to Treat Aortic Valve Stenosis

When the calcium deposit develops and it leads to narrowing, the following treatment can be helpful.

  • Your doctor may suggest medications like diuretics, beta-blockers, and nitrates to treat symptoms such as abnormal heart rhythms or heart failure. He/she will also treat high blood pressure, being careful not to drop it too much.
  • For those who develop symptoms, surgery to replace or repair the valves is frequently performed and is sometimes recommended even when the symptoms aren’t too bad yet. Instead of an invasive procedure, your physicians may suggest a balloon valvuloplasty which is much less invasive. They place a balloon into an artery in your groin and thread it to the heart where it is placed to cross the valve and then inflated. Unfortunately, narrowing frequently recurs after this.
  • You may be asked to avoid competitive sports, even without symptoms. You will also need to have your cholesterol checked and stop smoking if you do so.