Heart disease treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition. Treatments for heart disease vary depending on the severity of the condition. For example, a mild case of coronary artery disease may be managed with lifestyle changes and medication. A more severe problem such as a pacemaker or serious rhythm problem might require an implantable device.
Your doctor will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. Follow the instructions carefully and completely.
Heart disease treatment generally includes:
Lifestyle modifications are often the first step in managing heart disease. Lifestyle modifications include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption.
Medication If lifestyle changes do not work, your doctor might prescribe medication to treat heart diseases. The severity of the condition will determine which drug is prescribed.
Commonly used medications for heart disease include:
- Certain blood vessel, heart and rhythm conditions can be treated with anticoagulants (or blood thinners). They decrease blood clotting. These drugs prevent blood clots in the blood vessels and heart from developing. They also prevent larger clots, which can lead to more severe problems.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors expand blood vessels and decrease resistance by lowering levels of hormones that regulate blood pressure, allowing blood to flow through the body more easily.
- Beta-blockers slow down the heartbeat and decrease the effect of adrenaline. This lowers blood pressure, which makes it easier for the heart to work less.
- Calcium channel blockers stop calcium from moving into cells of the blood vessels. This medication can reduce heart rate and relax blood vessels.
- Digitalis can make the heart contract more when it has a weak pumping function.
- Water pills also known as diuretics help to reduce the burden on the heart. They remove excess fluids from the body through urination. These pills can also reduce the amount of fluid backup in the lungs, and other areas of the body like the legs and ankles.
- Statins are cholesterol-lowering medications that lower LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol levels in the blood.
- Surgery. If lifestyle changes and medication fail to make a difference, surgery may be necessary. Your doctor will recommend the procedure based on your type of heart disease and how severe it has become.
The following medical procedures can be used to treat heart disease:
- Angioplasty is a procedure that uses special tubing that has a attached balloon. This balloon is then threaded to the coronary vessel. To widen areas where blood flow has been reduced or slowed, the balloon is inflated.
- A wire mesh tube called a “stent” is used to open an artery during angioplasty. It stays in the artery for life.
- Bypass surgery is a procedure that removes arteries and veins from the body to clear blocked arteries. It also reroutes blood around clogged arteries to increase blood flow to the heart.
- Radiofrequency ablation can be used to treat various heart rhythm issues when drugs are not effective. The procedure involves the use of a catheter that has an electrode attached at the tip and is guided through the veins to reach the heart muscle. The catheter is placed exactly where the abnormal heart rhythm is stimulated by electrical signals. Mild radiofrequency energy is then transmitted to the pathway and destroyed selected cells in a small area.
- A heart transplant is performed when the damage to the heart has been irreparably caused. This involves the removal of a damaged heart and its replacement with one from an organ donor.
Heart Disease Prevention Tips
These lifestyle changes can be made to prevent and treat heart disease.
- Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet is essential for heart disease prevention. For optimal heart health, the American Heart Association (AHA), recommends the Dietary Approaches to Stop hypertension (DASH). DASH diet emphasizes heart-healthy foods rich in nutrients, protein and fiber. It is low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, whole grain, fat-free and low-fat dairy products as well as fish, poultry, and nuts are all foods to be focused on. DASH eats only sweets, added sugars, and sugary beverages.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise has many benefits. It can strengthen your heart and improve circulation. The AHA recommends that you do moderate-to-high-intensity cardio five days a weeks.
- Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. High blood pressure should be checked regularly. For most adults, this means that you should get tested once a year. If your blood pressure is very high, it may be more frequently. The AHA states that a normal blood pressure reading should be 120/80 millimeters (mmHg). Your risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases if your blood pressure is higher than this level. Blood pressure can be reduced by lifestyle changes and medication.
- Control your cholesterol. High cholesterol can block your arteries, increase your risk of heart attack and coronary artery disease. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or medication if necessary to lower cholesterol.
- Keep a healthy weight. Obesity and overweight significantly increase the risk for heart disease. These conditions can be prevented by a healthy diet, exercise, and a lower risk of developing heart disease.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Too much alcohol can increase your blood pressure and cause extra calories in your diet. This can lead to weight gain which can increase your risk of developing heart disease. Women of all ages, as well as men over 65, should drink no more than one drink per day. Men 65 years and older should have no more than two drinks per day. One drink is equal to 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, and 1 1/2 ounces liquor.
- Don’t smoke. It is crucial to stop using tobacco. It is best to stop smoking if you haven’t already. Smoking cigarettes can raise your blood pressure, which can lead to stroke and heart attack. Talk to your doctor to find the best way to quit smoking cigarettes.
- Manage stress. Stress can cause damage to the heart in many ways. It can raise blood pressure, or even trigger a heart attack. Some people deal with stress by eating too much or using alcohol or tobacco to cope. This can increase your risk of developing heart disease. Meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and exercise are all good ways to manage stress.
- Manage diabetes. Diabetes can increase your risk of developing heart disease. This is because high blood sugar levels can cause damage to your blood vessels. Regular screenings for diabetes are recommended. Follow your doctor’s advice if you have the condition.