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Calcium Deposits and Valve Function

Published: April 29, 2009

Dear Dr. Zipes: I have calcium deposits on the aortic valve that keep it from opening and closing all the way. If my family doctor had not told me, I would not know I have the problem. I am 82, have no symptoms and am very physically active. Is there anything I can do to keep the problem from worsening? Would avoiding high calcium foods help?

Dear Reader: It sounds like you have aortic stenosis (narrowing of the aortic valve) and aortic insufficiency/regurgitation (leaking) due, in part, to the calcium deposits you describe. These changes can be caused by simple wear and tear effects from aging, due to a bicuspid (two valve leaflets instead of the normal three) valve from birth, or due to rheumatic valve disease (not likely). Given your age and that you are physically active without symptoms, I would opt for the first explanation. Assuming the blockage and leak are both mild and have not affected the major pumping chamber, the left ventricle (easily determined by a cardiac echo), I would do nothing except have annual evaluations to be sure nothing has changed. Avoiding high calcium foods will have (and have had) no effect on these changes.

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  • Ginni

    I was recently diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse (calcified valve not opening with a jet of bllod ejecting backwards into heart). One surgeon showed me a picture of calcium deposits in the heart muscle (and I swear I heard this correctly) & said: “We leave these alone.” I don’t know medicine but I was surprised – it seemed logical a foreign body should be removed. I went to another surgeon who said: “You ALWAYS remove calcium deposits – they are like bones – they grow bigger.” I wondered if some research indicated (both surgeons are world class doctors) that there are some instances where calcium deposits should not be removed. I KNOW I heard the first doctor correctly – it was a relaxed sitution reviewing my “Echo” – but I am stymied and rather shy to ask the first surgeon what his reasons were for so stating. Please advise? I would be very grateful. Are there any exceptions to the calcium deposit removal rule? Thank you!