A buildup of calcium on your heart increases your risk of heart disease and heart attack. When calcium builds up in your aortic valves, the blood flow to your heart is reduced, which can cause these life-threatening medical problems. If your doctor has diagnosed you with aortic calcification, certain lifestyle and dietary changes might help reduce the buildup, as well as protect your heart from future damage.
An aortic calcification is related to arteriosclerosis, which causes stiff and thick arteries. Arteriosclerosis causes a blood flow restriction to your organs and tissues. Osteocalcin, a protein that helps carry calcium in and out of your heart, is often disrupted as well, which can lead to calcification. Heart calcification is more common in individuals older than 65, but can occur in younger patients as well. Other factors, such as a birth defect, kidney disease or high cholesterol, are usually to blame when heart calcification affects an individual younger than 65. Symptoms include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, ankle swelling, weight gain, weakness and chest discomfort.
When you take steps to reduce your risk of arteriosclerosis, you might also reduce your calcification risks. When your aortic arteries are flexible and clean, you are less likely to develop a calcification. Exercise is one important way to accomplish this goal. The American Heart Association recommends that you get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week to help protect your heart. Walking, jogging, running, riding your bike, swimming, playing sports and dancing are all effective ways to fit this much exercise into your week.
Eating plenty of nutritious foods might also help reduce your risk of arteriosclerosis, which might help reduce calcium deposits on your heart. Add five to nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet to help cut your arteriosclerosis risk. Whole grains, such as oatmeal and whole-wheat pasta, might also help reverse the calcium deposits on your heart. Eat foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol as another way to increase your chances of getting rid of a calcification on your heart. Limit your alcohol consumption as well.
If you have any symptoms of aortic calcification, seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor will likely do a heart scan to get an accurate picture of your heart and to determine the presence and location of calcium deposits. MayoClinic.com notes that mild cases of aortic calcification might not require treatment. More serious cases, which occur when one of your heart valves becomes extremely narrow, might require aortic valve replacement surgery. Ask your doctor about what dietary changes and exercises are appropriate for your condition and health history.
- National Institutes of Health: Calcium Plaque Build-up in the Arteries Leads to Coronary Heart Disease in Multi-Ethnic Groups
- Circulation: Coronary Artery Calcification: Pathophysiology, Epidemiology, Imaging Methods, and Clinical Implications
- MayoClinic.com: Aortic Calcification: An Early Sign of Heart Valve Problems?
- MayoClinic.com: Arteriosclerosis/Atherosclerosis
- Cleveland Clinic: Symptoms of Valve Disease
- American Heart Association: American Heart Association Guidelines
- MayoClinic.com: Heart Scan (Coronary Calcium Scan)