Atherosclerosis is a progressive disease that leads to calcification, commonly called "hardening of the arteries." Treatments for calcified arteries range from dietary changes to open heart surgery.
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"Calcification of the coronary arteries is a late effect of atherosclerosis," according to Dr. David Stewart of the Providence Everett Heart and Vascular Institute, who says the amount of calcium seen "is a fairly good measure of the amount of atherosclerosis present."
Atherosclerosis is a build-up of fat and cholesterol that clogs the lining of arteries leading to the heart. As the arteries harden, calcification develops, contributing to heart attack and stroke.
Your doctor may suggest limiting consumption of fat and cholesterol, quitting smoking and exercising regularly. Omega-3 fatty acids, contained in fish oil, help lower cholesterol.
A doctor will likely prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications called statins. "Aggressively lowering your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the 'bad' cholesterol, can slow, stop or even reverse the build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries," says the Mayo Clinic.
Calcified arteries in the heart also may be treated with stenting and angioplasty, typically implemented simultaneously to help reopen atherosclerotic arteries. In cases of advanced disease, a coronary bypass operation may be necessary.
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