The human body consists of various complex organ systems that work together in order to accomplish the tasks that are vital to our survival. The heart and the blood vessels are components of the circulatory system. These work in tandem to fulfill the task of delivering the blood enriched with oxygen and nutrients to various parts of the body. While the heart pumps oxygenated blood, the oxygenated blood is transported through blood vessels. The blood vessels are tubular vascular structures that are categorized into arteries, veins and capillaries. While the arteries carry the oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the other parts of the body, the veins mainly carry the deoxygenated blood to the heart. Capillaries are thin blood vessels, and the intricate network of capillaries connects the arteries to the veins. It is through the capillaries that the exchange of nutrients and wastes takes place between the blood and the tissues. Since vascular structures are essential for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, you can understand the repercussions of circulatory disorders on one's health. Vascular calcification, which refers to the formation of hardened calcium deposits in the blood vessels, could be indicative of a vascular condition called atherosclerosis. Given below is some information on the circumstances under which calcium may get accumulated in the blood vessels.
What Causes Calcification in Vascular Structures?
Though calcium is an essential nutrient that is vital for keeping the bones and teeth healthy, accumulation of calcium in body tissues or vessels can certainly give rise to serious health problems. For instance, aortic calcification, which refers to the accumulation of calcium in the aortic valve can limit the flow of blood, and make one susceptible to serious heart ailments. Earlier, calcium deposits in blood vessels was viewed as an effect of aging, but research has linked calcification to lifestyle-associated issues. It is believed that people who don't make the right lifestyle choices are more likely to develop this condition. Unhealthy dietary habits, smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol, have long proved to be risk factors for vascular diseases.
When the levels of bad cholesterol, fat, calcium and other cellular wastes circulating in the blood are higher than normal, these combine to form arterial plaque. When arterial plaque deposits or calcifies on the inner walls of the arteries, it may limit the flow of blood. It is believed that fluctuations in the levels of certain bone proteins and specialized cells, that may be associated with bone formation, could also be responsible for causing accumulation of calcium. Certain animal studies have revealed that matrix Gla protein (MGP) plays a vital role in preventing pathological calcification which is why a dip in the MGP levels could be responsible for causing calcification. Osteopontin is another protein that is believed to slow down the formation of calcium deposits in hard tissues. Thus, low levels of osteopontin could also be a contributory factor. Use of blood-thinning drugs is also believed to put one at an increased risk of developing calcium deposits in the arteries.
How is Vascular Calcification Treated?
Though the accumulation of calcium in the tissues and blood vessels is often viewed as an indicator of atherosclerosis, certain medical conditions are also considered to be contributory factors for accumuation of calcium in the arteries. Thus, treating the underlying medical condition would be an integral part of the treatment. Some studies have revealed a possible link between osteoporosis and formation of calcified deposits in the blood vessels. Those who have been diagnosed with this degenerative bone disorder must therefore, follow the guidelines regarding drug therapy, or other treatment options, in order to keep this condition under control. Elderly women who have been diagnosed with diabetes fall under the high-risk group for calcification in the vascular structures in the breast. Since this vascular problem may make such women susceptible to heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure or myocardial infarction, routine tests must be performed to detect any abnormality.
Calcium could also accumulate over the inner walls of the iliac arteries in the pelvic region. Calcium deposits in pelvic region or lower extremities are commonly seen in diabetics. These deposits are medically referred to as phleboliths. Though such deposits are usually benign in nature, it could give rise to atherosclerosis. One must therefore, make the lifestyle-related changes soon. Since the use of anticoagulants is also linked with this vascular abnormality, doctors also exercise caution while prescribing these drugs. Research has revealed that vitamin K supplementation may help in preventing accumulation of calcium. Sometimes, doctors may also prescribe calcium channel blockers in order to prevent calcium from entering into the smooth muscle cells of arteries. In severe cases of aortic calcification, surgery may become a necessity. Coronary bypass, balloon angioplasty or stent placement may be required to clear the clogged arteries and alleviate the symptoms of atherosclerosis or cardiovascular conditions.
The circulatory system is an important organ system of the body, and one must take care to prevent damage to the heart and the vascular structures. A majority of illnesses that we contract are caused due to the unhealthy lifestyle choices we make. Thus, giving up unhealthy habits such as smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol, following a healthy diet and exercise regimen will surely help in lowering the risk of vascular diseases. So, make the right lifestyle-related changes at the right time. After all, prevention is better than cure.