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January 15th, 2009
10:43 AM ET

How can cardiac calcification be treated?

As a new feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers’ questions. Here’s a question for Dr. Gupta.

Asked by Collin, Oak Park, Illinois

"I'm in my 40s and was told I have cardiac calcification. I'm curious about treatments for it and read that chelation therapy might work. Does that work?"

Answer:

Thanks, Collin, for writing in. Cardiac calcification is fairly common sign of early artery disease. It shows up on X-rays or CT scans in people of all ages. If developed during middle-age years, family history probably plays a role. I get tested regularly for heart disease and calcium buildup because I, myself, have a family history of the disease. There are often no symptoms of distress or pain so its important to keep up with annual exams.

Let me back up and explain exactly what cardiac calcification is. During the beginning stages of artery disease, the lining of aortic wall becomes inflamed, then plaque starts to build up and over time, calcium deposits begin to form in the artery wall. Those deposits are the calcification.

It's not reversible, but you can control the inflammation and prevent the calcium from progressing by controlling your risk factors. I ran this question by the American Heart Association, which confirmed that if you don't smoke, keep your weight down and your blood pressure/cholesterol at a normal range, you can prevent future damage.

Sounds like a simple solution, right? Well thats because it is simple. Many people search the Web for a magic drug, or a quick fix treatment when the solution is often as easy as working out, eating healthily.

Consuming healthy food will keep your numbers at a healthy range and your weight down. Limit or avoid transfat and saturated fats found in fried foods, cookies, eggs, palm oil. Look for sources of good fats in fish, flaxseed and olive oil. They'll help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your overall risk of heart disease.

You mention chelation therapy as a treatment option. Chelation therapy is typically used for treating mercury poisoning. Some people report using it to treat heart disease but there is no evidence that it works. In fact, the American Heart Association and National Institutes of Health do not recommend chelation therapy for heart patients, noting lack of evidence and also unpleasant side effects. The side effects include vomiting, headache, inability to create new blood cells and even kidney damage. The best treatment option is monitoring your vitals signs.

Collin, it's a positive thing that you've discovered these calcifications at a young age. Now, be empowered to take the steps necessary to stop the progression of the disease and you'll go on to live a long, healthy life. Best of luck!


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soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Capt ED Camblin RET

    First I applaud your insight snd valuable medical advice! None the less i DISAGREE with ONE of your five points concerning living a good LONGER life – shortening WORK HOURS! IF "work" creates stress OR prevents "exercise" (which is TRUE for MOST of us) your point I believe is well taken! Yet for me it is not! I am an injured American soldier, a wounded warrior! My job was the high point of my life! Not to mislead! I was DRAFTED. UNhappily but PROUDLY I served til wounded! I appreciate zour work, THANKS e

    January 15, 2009 at 19:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Grace Mejia

    My 13 years old niece was diagnosed this month with valvular heart disease. The aortic,tricuspid and pulmonic valves have good opening and closing motion. But the mitral valve is thickened and calcified. The cardiologist said she needs to undergo open heart surgery. With this kind of problem, what could be the prognosis if she will undergo a very expensive operation?
    Can you advise us.Thanks.

    December 2, 2014 at 06:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Girish Talati

    Dr.Sanjay Gupta,
    I acknowledge your experience and wisdom but I will appreciate if you can do some more research into this burning question. Calcification of arteries seems to be more due to family history. Take my example I always ask my cardiologist that though my HbA1c is perfectly under control between 5.8 to 6.2 since 2002 and BP always around 115/74 , my lipid profile is much under normal level for TC,TG , LDL but my HDL is also lower 35-38 and that's my worries. Apart from all these conditions when a mild heart attack occurred I 2008 and when discussed with my cardiologist he said it might be due to sleep apnea so taken study and started using CPAP at night but my calcium score always going up and up. I'm based in Atlanta and will appreciate if we can discuss personally to find out exact cause and any treatment, need to put more and more scientist into work and if possible by suitable modification into DNA. Pl advise. Thanks/Girish

    March 2, 2015 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. don mau

    The good doctor didn't actually explain the cause of calcification. Calcification is caused by a Bacterial infection, either Bartonella or Brucella and it is very serious.

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    March 19, 2015 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Don Inverso

      The article you are referencing is absolute nonsense. There still is not an direct connection between dental health and calcification, the only connection can be lifestyle.

      Do not lead people to articles that recommend EDTA (ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid) chelation therapy – because it does not work, it can harm or kill a person.

      May 29, 2016 at 10:31 | Report abuse |
  5. Girish Talati

    Thank you Don Mau for providing me outstanding information !!

    April 2, 2015 at 16:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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    April 15, 2016 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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  7. l.Babins

    I have had type I diabetes for 50 years I am 57 year old. I follow all the guidelines very well. Recently, on a a CT scan for something else, they noted moderate calcification of the coronary arteries with intact blood vessels. My dr said continue exactly what you are doing since you have zero secondary problems from the Diabetes. Of course, I became very anxious. Any ideas? How predictive is it? 50% 100% etc that I will develop CAD.

    May 26, 2016 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Name*Shannon L Kersting

    Yes I have had my left lung removed and I have had several bad surgeries anyway I have a power port and they're going in my right lung now because they found more masses and lesions my question is they also found that the coronary arteries around my part which is right by my heart is calcified so does that mean they're going to go in and do stents because I have to have it my port replaced it's been in for over 5 years and I was on Vancomycin another antibiotic for a year and two months because my back I had a back pump on for that long

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  11. Lorilee

    I'm not really sure about this. But someone said they have a drug/supplement, that can take this away. The calciumfacation around the heart. Do you know of this?

    December 17, 2016 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Name*Rick Smith

    Need a new arortic valve. No dr wants to touch it because of calcification. Ootions?

    January 13, 2017 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Maurita Honokaupu

    It's clear your topic covers good tips looking at the frequent number of discussion. Great job. Well done. Continue the amazing thoughts.

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  14. Name*Debbie

    What if you have osteoporosis and afraid to take Medication due to bad side affects. Is calcuim supplements going to harm me then?

    May 23, 2017 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
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  16. Michelle Strickland

    My cousin is currently in the hospital with AFib – they have shocked is heart to get it back into rythium. But they have discovered that for the second time in several years his heart is encased in calcium. The first time they did open heart surgery and peeled it off. They have no idea why it happened the first time much less the second time. They are trying to figure out what to do. They may refer him to the Houston Medical Center, Have you ever heard of this happening? We can't find anything on the internet on this – just the arteries or valves not the entire heart,

    Thank you!

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  19. Scott

    Dr. SanJay, Im a disabled veteran from several conditions. I e COPD, Emphazyma, and coronary artery calcifications. I was exposed to asbestos while I was aboard ship. The ship twas having asbestos removed. I was in breathing contact with ind t off and on for 2 to 4 weeks aa couple months. Come sould my exposure to the asbestos be possible causes for any or all of my medical conditions? Thank you for any comme

    December 31, 2017 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Darius McSean

    Thank you Dr. Gupta for this info. My father died of heart attack at 41!. Im 19, in college. Never smoked & a runner–25 miles/week. No alcohol/non-smoker. Im 6'1" & 168lbs. Slim but muscular.I maybe don't eat right though or healthy. Is there specific diet I should be on? Pretty scared of heart disease bc of my dad's ha.

    January 16, 2018 at 05:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Richard Dixon

    Hi Dr. Gupta. I have followed you for many years and feel that you have given people a lot of really great medical advice over the years..
    However, in the answer above, to the question "can calcification be reversed", you make the statement that Calcification cannot be reversed. I have to disagree on this, and I have evidence to show that it can be reversed with Vitamin K2 MK-7 plus Vitamin D3. I offer the following as my evidence: Six years ago I had my right knee replaced. During the physical exam the cardiologist showed me my chest x-ray and said that I had significant calcification around my heart. He said that I should return to him after the surgery to see what could be done, if anything..

    My knee surgeon commented that, yes, I did have calcification also in vessels near my knees. After my surgery, my surgeon prescribed Vitamin K2 MK-7 which I began and continued to take daily. The only real results that I noticed in the following weeks way that my teeth felt very smooth, and the large amount of tarter, or plaque that I had disappeared completely.
    Then, last April (2017), I had my left knee replaced. When I spoke to the cardiologist he said that my heart was fine. I asked him about calcification, he said that there was only a very small amount in the upper area, but that is not unusual or anything to worry about.

    Extensive research, by way of The Rotterdam Study, has shown that not only does Vitamin K2 MK-7, plus Vitamin D3 guide calcium away from soft tissue and into bones & teeth, it also flushes out existing calcification in soft tissue up to 35 to 40%. I believe that this is clear evidence of the power of this amazing, but forgotten for years, Vitamin. I recommend, Doctor, that you do research on this. I do believe that you will find it very enlightening. With your outreach to millions of CNN viewers, you can do a wonderful service to millions of sufferers of disease. There are also other applications for this vitamin in, for example Osteoporosis, and other conditions.
    Thanks for your continued work in educating the public with your appearances on CNN. Best regards, Richard Dixon – –

    March 11, 2018 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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  23. angela

    diet and lifestyle lead to calcification, mineral deficiences lead to calcification, magnesium deficiency specifically as magnesium regulates our calcium. SO not true that it's irreversible! issues w teeth can also stem from magnesium def. the typical blood test performed to test for mag def is not accurate as mag is held in the cells and not the blood until it's needed. allopathic med wants u to think there's no reversing this but that's hogwash. bc my mother is apparently incapable of changing her toxic diet she underwent surgery after botched surgery and is now worse off than when she started and now has a broken femur, a bovine valve and pacemaker and still has the exact same issues as before surgery but taking a TON of prescription drugs as she will have to forever now. her surgeon disagreed w all the research done regarding magnesium and heart disease, it's not really allopathic doctors fault, big pharm just has zero desire to teach doctors anything except treating w drugs, surgery and the like. "runs in my family" means nothing more than you eat the same garbage ur parents ate, u use the same toxic products ur parents used and likely have the same bad habits your parents had ...ie smoking, drinking, drug use. i didn't change my bad habits until i nearly died and at 54 i have better health than i have had all my life for as far back as i can recall. fyi chanca piedra is a wonderful herb that can help break up calcification, it's actually called the stone breaker. magnesium but i recommend using celtic sea salt to supplement as it has 3 diff types of magnesium and u get ur other minerals to boot, u can't just supplement isolated minerals, that's like saying that heart disease is a diff disease from RA, it's toxicity in the body and lack of nutrition, period. our bodies start breaking down and it shows up in diff ways for diff ppl but typically the same for family members becos u have inherited certain genetic weaknesses prob due to parent's toxicity at conception. plant based diet, whole, organic foods. why do we think we need milk? milk is for infants bc they need to grow quickly, certainly nature didn't mean it for adults! meat is toxic to the body, veg oils are toxic to the body as is sugar and flour. not a lot left but i think that's how God intended it, nuts, seeds, veggies and fruits. i no longer need to eat the flesh or another living creature to feel satisfied or whole.

    April 25, 2018 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.