What risks does calcification in the aorta cause?
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
The aorta is the body's largest artery. It carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The inner lining of any artery can develop fatty plaques that harden. This process is called atherosclerosis. When the lining of an artery is affected by atherosclerosis, calcium can deposit in the areas of atherosclerosis.

Seeing calcification in the aorta most likely means there is some atherosclerosis in your largest artery. Such calcifications are often seen in people as they get older. The calcifications themselves are not a risk to you. However, finding evidence of atherosclerosis in your aorta probably means you have atherosclerosis in the arteries of your heart and brain. This increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Similar to other cardiovascular risk factors, these calcifications are a sign that you should be diligent about adopting "heart-healthy" habits. This is especially true if you smoke or have diabetes, an abnormal cholesterol profile or high blood pressure. At your next appointment with your doctor, ask if there is anything else you can do to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.

By the way, you may see advertisements for "chelation" (kee-LAY-shun) treatments. They supposedly remove calcium deposits from the lining of arteries. There is no proven value from such treatments.

Continue Learning about Arteriosclerosis


A common cause of heart attacks and strokes, arteriosclerosis causes a fatty substance to accumulate inside your arteries.Called plaque, the fatty substance hardens and narrows the arteries, which limits the amount of oxygenated b...

lood that can get to your heart and the rest of your body. When blood is restricted, it can lead to chest pain, a heart attack and pain or numbness in the legs, arms and pelvis, a condition called peripheral arterial disease. The plaque can also rupture and lead to bleeding in the brain, which is medically known as a stroke. Doctors believe that the cells that line our arteries become damaged by high blood pressure, smoking or high cholesterol, which allows plaque to build up in the blood vessel. A family history of heart disease also increases your risk to develop this disease.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.