Your heart contains four valves: pulmonary, aortic, tricuspid and mitral. According to the Mayo Clinic, calcification of one of these valves can occur as you grow older. However, it also can occur if you do not watch your diet and eat foods high in cholesterol or fat. Heart valve calcification also can occur if you are underweight, including those who have eating disorders. If your heart valves calcify, it can interfere with how your blood flows through your heart, and this can cause you to develop heart disease.
Causes of Calcification
Not having enough magnesium in your diet can cause you to have a calcified heart valve. Age also can bring about calcification of your heart valves. In fact, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports that aortic valve calcification is common in people who are older than 75. The Cleveland Clinic reports that calcification of the aortic valve can be brought on by high blood pressure or low body weight.
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You can increase your magnesium intake by eating green vegetables such as spinach, kale or broccoli. The Office of Dietary Supplements reports that eating beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains is also an excellent way to increase the magnesium in your diet. The Office of Dietary Supplements also reports that fish such as halibut is an excellent source of magnesium. To prevent high cholesterol, you should avoid high-fat foods such as fried or greasy foods. You should try to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables to help keep the risk of high blood pressure down and maintain a good body weight.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a calcified heart valve will lead to valve diseases, which have symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, coughing, heart palpitations, chest pain or tightness and dizziness. You may also develop swollen ankles or feet due to fluid buildup. If you experience any of these symptoms, speak to your doctor immediately.
If you have a calcified heart valve, you may go without any symptoms until the condition worsens. To identify calcification of the valves, you will have to schedule a visit with your cardiologist, who will complete a physical exam. The Cleveland Clinic reports that your physician may also use a variety of tests to identify the calcified heart valve, including echocardiograms, electrocardiograms and cardiac catheterization. The Cleveland Clinic reports that other diagnostic tests such as ultrasounds, computer tomography and magnetic resonance imaging tests can be used.
Most calcified heart valves do not cause significant heart problems and only require regular checkups with your cardiologist. Your physician may prescribe medications to help lower cholesterol or high blood pressure to control the amount of calcification. However, if your calcified heart valve causes a condition known as stenosis -- a narrowing of the valve, which impedes blood flow -- then treatment may be necessary. According to MedlinePlus.com, when stenosis occurs, you may need valve replacement surgery.
Ignoring the symptoms of a calcified heart valve can be life threatening. Blood flow may be restricted to vital organs, resulting in organ failure in severe cases. You will also be at an increased risk of having a heart attack.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.