Causes And Treatment Of Coronary Calcification
Coronary artery calcification is a buildup of calcium in your heart’s two main arteries, known as the coronary arteries. This is a continuation of the process called atherosclerosis, in which plaque composed of fat and cholesterol forms in the arteries over time, usually about 5 years. Coronary calcification can be an early indicator of coronary artery disease.
Intimal coronary artery calcification occurs in the inner artery layer, while medial coronary calcification is in the middle artery layer. The amount of calcification in your body determines how intense your atherosclerosis may be. The main issue caused by coronary calcification is the heart muscle’s inability to pump enough blood. This is due to the plaque creating a narrower pathway for the blood to flow through, so it becomes difficult for oxygen-rich blood to reach your heart.
Risk Factors For Coronary Calcification
There are many factors that can lead to increased risk of coronary calcification, such as chronic kidney disease, glucose issues, high cholesterol levels, high BMI, high blood pressure, and family history of coronary calcification. Other factors include older age, tobacco use, parathyroid hormone irregularities, and high phosphate or calcium levels.
Women who have gone through menopause and men are more likely to develop this disease, along with caucasians as opposed to other races.
Causes Of Coronary Calcification
As you age, calcium from your bloodstream can begin to settle in other parts of your body. Arteries that are damaged, inflamed, or have undergone repairs are more likely to attract calcium deposits. These deposits start small and increase in size over time as more builds up, with the process sometimes starting as early as in your twenties. According to researchers, the reason calcification begins is due to smooth muscle cells in the intimal layer dying.
If your arteries begin calcifying early, it may go unnoticed for several years as younger people do not usually have reasons to get imaging, and if you do happen to get imaging, the amount of calcium at this point may be so small that it is unable to be seen.
Symptoms Of Coronary Calcification
Coronary artery calcification often has no apparent symptoms in the beginning, but as more calcium builds up people may begin to experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness in your hands or feet, a decrease in blood pressure, and even heart attacks.
Testing For Coronary Calcification
There are a variety of tests your doctor may order to determine whether you have coronary artery calcification. Your doctor will begin with a physical exam and blood test while reviewing your personal and family medical history. Once this has been done, your doctor may conduct a coronary calcium score test, which is a screening test that uses a low radiation CT scan to find plaque in the coronary arteries. The higher the calcium score, the likelier you are to have coronary calcification.
Other tests your doctor may use include a coronary CT angiogram, which is a non-invasive test to measure your blood flow, as well as electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, and stress tests. More invasive tests to check the progression of the disease exist as well, such as a cardiac intravascular ultrasound, which is where your doctor will place an ultrasound wand at the end of a catheter to see the inside of your coronary arteries, allowing them to determine what stage of disease you are at.
Treatment For Coronary Calcification
To combat this disease, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medications, or in severe cases, surgery. Lifestyle changes that can either prevent or slow the progression of coronary calcification include a healthy diet, increased physical activity, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and losing weight. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as cholesterol medication, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, and medicine to prevent or dissolve blood clots.
In late stages of coronary calcification, your doctor may suggest surgical procedures to fight the disease. These include intravascular lithotripsy, in which a catheter is attached to a device that, when inserted, sends pressure waves designed to break up the calcification. After this, a stent is inserted to keep your arteries open.
Other surgical procedures that may be done include a rotational, orbital, or laser atherectomy in order to cut out the plaque and calcium from your artery. Bypass surgeries and angioplasties may also be recommended to treat the disease.
Complications Of Treatment
Medications that treat coronary calcification may have adverse side effects, and surgical procedures can sometimes lead to unfortunate complications, such as arrhythmias, aneurysms, bleeding, artery dissection, stroke, heart attacks, and even death.
How CVG Can Help
CVG offers a variety of services that can check and treat symptoms of coronary artery calcification. At CVG, we perform stress tests that will observe blood flow and test for Atrial Fibrillation. There are three types of stress tests that we perform:
A treadmill test is a test in which you will walk on a treadmill that gets faster and steeper every 3 minutes. This will stress your heart so that our nurse or doctor can determine your EKG and blood pressure.
An echo test is performed before and after your treadmill test to determine how well your heart pumps blood.
A nuclear stress test is a treadmill test that is prefaced by an injection of medicine that shows the flow of blood to your heart.
We also offer cardiac catheterization, in which a catheter is inserted into the heart in order to take pictures and conduct tests. This procedure allows doctors to gain more information about your condition and suggest treatment options.
If these tests determine a problem, we offer treatment solutions to fix several conditions. Learn more about our services here, or schedule an appointment to talk to our doctors.