One of the most important organs in the body is the human heart - the main organ of the circulatory system. A healthy heart sustains life and keeps the body free from diseases. Like the rest of the organs in the body, the heart is also affected by various disorders due to unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle. One such disorder that affects the heart, especially the aorta of the heart, is the calcification or accumulation of calcium salts in the blood vessels.
Aortic calcification, also known as aortic valve calcification (or sclerosis) is a condition where large calcium deposits get accumulated in the aorta of the heart. These calcium deposits can cause the opening of the aortic valve to become narrow and reduce the flow of blood to the heart resulting in chest pain and heart attack. The narrowing of the opening of the aortic valve is known as aortic valve stenosis, in medical terminology. Even when the individual does not show any other symptoms of a heart disease, deposition of calcium in the valves may be an early indication of heart-related disorders. This disorder of the blood vessel occurs not only in the heart but also in the abdominal aorta, which is the largest artery in the abdominal cavity. This condition is known as abdominal aortic calcification.
Aortic valve calcification, which is similar to vascular calcification, typically affects individuals who are above 65 years of age. If aortic sclerosis or stenosis affects people younger than 65 years, it can be caused due to various reasons.
- One of the causes of this valve calcification is the congenital heart defect, with most common being the presence of bicuspid aortic valve during birth, which may lead to stenosis in adulthood.
- In rare cases, some babies are born with a narrowed aortic valve, which may cause heart problems in adulthood.
- Formation of scar tissue in the arteries due to rheumatic fever, which is a complication of strep throat infection, can narrow the aortic valve, leading to aortic valve stenosis. Calcium deposits can also get accumulated on the rough surface of the scar tissue, which can contribute to aortic valve calcification or sclerosis.
- Accumulation of calcium deposits in the aortic valve of the heart may lead to sclerosis. This deposition of calcium can be caused due to age factor since the body becomes unable to process calcium and keeps accumulating it in the inner lining of the arteries.
- Some other causes of aortic valve calcification are smoking, drinking and the presence of huge amounts of cholesterol in the body.
- Kidney failure can also be a causative factor for aortic sclerosis.
It is essential to identify the signs of this health disorder in the initial stages, lest it may lead to something complicated, which may take a long time to get treated. Mild calcification can be diagnosed by observing the following symptoms:
- Heart murmur
- Feeling of tightness in the chest region followed by pain or angina
- Experiencing fatigue especially during overexertion and increased activities
- Sensations of a fluttering and rapid heartbeat, known as heart palpitations
- Coughing, especially while lying down or at night
- Swelling in the ankles and the feet
- Excessive and frequent urination
- Feeling of dizziness with overexertion
Aortic calcification can be diagnosed if an individual experiences heart murmur. The doctor will recommend the patient to undergo an Electrocardiogram (ECG) and an ultrasound test to determine the severity of this disorder. Once this condition is diagnosed, the doctor may prescribe certain medications that will help to thin the deposits. In severe cases, the patient may have to undergo surgery, called aortic valve replacement, in order to replace the affected aorta and make way for uninterrupted blood circulation.
Though mild calcification and sclerosis of the aortic valve do not cause any significant heart problems, it is essential to go for regular checkups to curb this condition from becoming worse. Keep your cholesterol levels in check in order to prevent aortic valve sclerosis.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.