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Coronary artery calcification is the result of calcium deposition in the coronary arteries. Coronary arteries are blood vessels that deliver blood supply to the heart for its nourishment and oxygen needs. Calcium gradually builds up in the inner lining of the arteries, forming layers of plaque that eventually lead to the development of coronary artery disease.
Blood vessels affected by calcification harden and become narrow over time. When this happens, blood supply going to the heart becomes limited. When severe calcification occurs, it can deprive the heart of oxygen, and result in a life-threatening event.
Several factors can increase an individual's chance of having coronary artery calcification. These include high cholesterol levels in the blood, hypertension or high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Having a family history of heart disease also increases an individual's risk of developing the disease. The incidence of this condition is more common in men older than 45 years old and in women older than 55. Drinking alcoholic beverages, smoking, as well as living a stressful lifestyle also play some roles in many heart diseases.
In coronary artery calcification, the restriction of blood flow progresses slowly over time, making the symptoms less apparent during the onset of the disease. As the disease continues, depending on the area and severity of blockage in the coronary arteries, the complaints experienced by patients may vary from mild to severe. These include a squeezing pain in the chest, numbness of the hands and feet, sleep problems, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
A cardiologist is a doctor who specialize in the care and management of patients with heart diseases. He usually takes the medical history of the patient, conducts a thorough physical examination and requests for several blood tests and diagnostic tests before coming up with a diagnosis. Diagnostic tools he might use to evaluate patients with coronary artery calcification include a chest x-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, an electrocardiogram (ECG), and echocardiography.
The goals for treatment are to relieve the symptoms, reduce the risk factors, widen the blocked arteries, and prevent further complications. Included in coronary artery calcification treatments are cholesterol-lowering drugs, stress-management programs and surgery to repair or restore blood flow to the heart. Lifestyle modifications, like stopping smoking and alcohol drinking as well as eating healthy foods, are also highly recommended. Prevention is often advised by many physicians to patients who have increased risks in developing heart disease. Some recommendations include living a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy foods, controlling weight, and increasing physical activity.