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What Are the Treatments for Calcified Arteries in the Heart?

by
author image Matthew Fox, MD
Dr. Matthew Fox graduated from the University of California with a Bachelor of Arts in molecular, cell and developmental biology and received a M.D. from the University of Virginia. He is a pathologist and has experience in internal medicine and cancer research.
What Are the Treatments for Calcified Arteries in the Heart?
Common medical treatments for CAD include aspirin and other anti-coagulant drugs. Photo Credit medicine image by Czintos Ã--dön from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

Calcified arteries in the heart are a form of coronary arteriosclerosis. In this condition, the arteries become hard and narrowed. This restricts the flow of blood to the heart, limiting the amount of work it can perform, even to the point at which a person may have trouble walking a few steps without chest pain or shortness of breath. The narrowing of the arteries can be progressive, leading to stronger symptoms. If the artery suddenly becomes occluded, the blood supply to the area of the heart supplied by the artery will be cut off and a heart attack will result. Lifestyle, medical and interventional treatments for coronary artery disease can relieve symptoms and prolong life.

Lifestyle Modifications

Some lifestyle modifications have shown to be useful in the treatment of calcified arteries in the heart. Smoking and exposure to second hand smoke should be stopped. A diet planned with a dietitian or other qualified healthcare professional can help lower fats and cholesterol as well lower high blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables and grains are usually beneficial. In addition, exercise can be a useful treatment for this condition, bearing in mind to consult with a healthcare professional in regards to how much exercise is appropriate before beginning an exercise program. Along with this, weight loss may be beneficial if obesity is present. Finally, reducing and coping better with stress can help. (See Reference 1)

Medical Management

Medical management refers to the use of medications to treat calcified arteries in the heart. One of the most common medicines prescribed is aspirin. Aspirin interferes with platelets. Platelets help form blood clots, a good thing when a person is bleeding, but when the blood vessels in the heart are constricted and hard, a platelet plug will cause a heart attack. Other drugs are given to lower fat and cholesterol in the body as well as lower the blood pressure. If symptoms are interfering with activities of daily living, nitrates may be given to dilate the blood vessels temporarily. Other medications include beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers to decrease the amount of work the heart needs to do. (See Reference 2 and 3)

Interventional Treatments

Interventional treatments include procedures done by radiologists or cardiologists and surgeons. Radiologists or cardiologists can insert a small catheter into a blood vessel through the leg and thread it up to the heart. There, the catheter is pushed into the narrowed artery and a balloon is inflated to increase the diameter of the vessels. A stent, or hollow metal mesh tube, may be inserted as well to help keep the artery open. If this procedure is not feasible, surgeons can perform a coronary artery bypass graft, or CABG. In this procedure, veins or arteries elsewhere in the body are implanted into the heart. Some people may be candidates for minimally invasive coronary artery bypass grafting, in which a smaller incision is made. Finally, laser resurfacing of the heart may be an available option. In this procedure, a laser makes channels through the heart muscle to supplement blood flow through the vessels. (See Reference 4 and 5)

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