What Causes Calcium Deposits in the Heart?

Calcium is the most common mineral in the human body. Most of it is stored in bones and some is stored in the blood, assisting with bodily functions such as blood clotting, muscle contraction and communication between nerve cells. But when calcium builds up in the coronary arteries or around heart valves, it can cause problems. Cardiac calcium scans, special imaging tests that measure the amount of calcium buildup in the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart muscle), are being used to predict cardiac events such as heart attacks, according to research published in the July 2009 issue of the journal Radiology (see Reference 2 below). There are some ways to help prevent calcium buildup in the heart, and understanding the causes is the first step.

Damage to Vessels

According to the American Heart Association, when the innermost wall of an artery, called the endothelium, is damaged by smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels, waste such as calcium, platelets, fats and other cellular byproducts are allowed to build up inside the artery. This condition, known as atherosclerosis, restricts blood flow and can lead to heart attacks and other cardiac problems. Stopping smoking and controlling blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure, can help you maintain optimum arterial health and help prevent, or slow the progression of, dangerous calcium buildup.

Thyroid Conditions

Your body's balance of calcium and magnesium is important to a healthy cardiovascular system. If you have thyroid disease, you may find the ratio of those minerals out of balance. Often, patients with thyroid problems need calcium and magnesium supplements because their bodies are expelling too much calcium and magnesium. But in some cases, thyroid disease can cause calcium build up in the blood, which then results in unhealthy calcium plaques forming in the coronary arteries.

Age

Over time, the flow of blood through the aortic valve can leave tiny calcium deposits around the valve. As we age, those deposits can build up and lead to a stiffening of the valve, a condition called stenosis. The Mayo Clinic says this condition is most prevalent in people age 65 and older, with symptoms often not appearing until age 70.

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