Coronary Artery Disease (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Treatment for coronary artery disease focuses on taking steps to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. For example:
What to Think About
Keep these questions in mind as you think about your treatment options:
Lifestyle changes are the first step for anyone with coronary artery disease. But sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough. You may also need medicines. If you take medicines, take them on a schedule and take the correct dose. Taking medicines properly can help you prevent a heart attack or stroke.
When you're first diagnosed with heart disease, your doctor will strongly advise you to make lifestyle changes. These include quitting smoking, eating a heart-healthy diet, and getting regular exercise. These healthy habits can slow or even stop the disease and improve the quality and length of your life.
If you smoke, try to quit. Medicines and counseling can help you quit for good.
Eat a heart-healthy diet. This can help you keep your disease from getting worse. A chart that compares heart-healthy diets(What is a PDF document?) can help you see what foods are suggested in each plan. A heart-healthy diet means:
Start an exercise program (if your doctor says it's safe). Try walking, swimming, biking, or jogging for at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week. You may need to start slow and build up to this amount. Any activity you enjoy will work, as long as it gets your heart rate up. In people with heart disease, exercise can help lower the chance of a heart attack.
Aspirin. Your doctor will probably recommend that you take an aspirin every day. Aspirin can reduce the risk of having a heart attack in people with heart disease. Lower doses seem to work as well as higher doses to prevent heart attacks, and they have fewer side effects. Talk with your doctor before you start taking aspirin. For more information, see the topic:
Cholesterol. If you have average to high cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe a medicine to lower your cholesterol, such as a statin. For more information, see the topic:
Chest pain. If you have chest pain or discomfort (angina), your doctor may prescribe medicines such as:
After you start treatment for coronary artery disease, your doctor will want to keep track of how you are doing. He or she will want to know if you've made lifestyle changes and if they have helped. For example, your blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight will be checked. These measures will help your doctor find out if lifestyle changes are working.
If you take medicines, your doctor will want to know if you feel any side effects. If you take medicine for angina (chest pain or discomfort), your doctor will want to know how well it works. Does the medicine ease your pain quickly? Do you get chest pain less often?
You will likely need to keep taking medicines that lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and that reduce your risk of having a heart attack. Your doctor will also want to check how well these medicines work for you. If they're not working, he or she may want you to try a different dose or take a different kind of medicine.
It can be hard to make lifestyle changes on your own. If you need help, talk to your doctor about cardiac rehabilitation. In cardiac rehab, a team of health professionals provides education and support to help you make new, healthy habits.
Treatment if the disease gets worse
Sometimes coronary artery disease gets worse even with treatment. If you start to have abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), your doctor might suggest a pacemaker or medicines to control your heart rate.
If your chest pain keeps getting worse even though you are taking medicines, you may need procedures to improve blood flow to your heart. They are also done when the coronary arteries are severely blocked. These procedures include angioplasty with or without stenting and coronary artery bypass graft surgery.
When deciding between bypass surgery and angioplasty, your doctor will think about several things, such as how many arteries are blocked and whether you have diabetes. To learn more, see the Surgery section and the Angioplasty and Other Treatment section of this topic.
Coronary artery disease can lead to heart failure and the need for other medicines. These medicines can help you feel better and prevent your heart failure from getting worse.
If your coronary artery disease gets worse, you may want to think about palliative care. Palliative care is a kind of care for people who have diseases that do not go away and often get worse over time. It is different from care to cure your illness, which is called curative treatment.
Palliative care focuses on improving your quality of life—not just in your body, but also in your mind and spirit. Some people combine palliative care with curative care.
Palliative care may help you manage symptoms or side effects from treatment. It can also help you and your family to:
If you are interested in palliative care, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to manage your care or refer you to a doctor who specializes in this type of care.
For more information, see the topic Palliative Care.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Find out what women really need.
Pill Identifier on RxList
- quick, easy,
Find a Local Pharmacy
- including 24 hour, pharmacies