Heart disease is treated in a number of
ways, depending on the seriousness of the disease. For many
people, heart disease is managed with
lifestyle changes and
medications. People with severe heart disease may need
surgery. In any
case, once heart disease develops, it requires lifelong management.
Although great advances have been made
in treating heart disease, changing one's habits remains the single
most effective way to stop the disease from progressing.
If you know that you have heart
disease, changing your diet to one low in fat, especially saturated
fat, and cholesterol will help reduce high blood cholesterol, a
primary cause of atherosclerosis. In fact, it is even more
important to keep your cholesterol low after a heart attack to help
lower your risk of having another one.
Eating less fat should also help you
lose weight. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower blood
cholesterol and is the most effective lifestyle way to reduce high
blood pressure, another risk factor for atherosclerosis and heart
People with heart disease can also
benefit from exercise. Recent research has shown that even moderate
amounts of physical activity are associated with lower death rates
from heart disease. However, people with severe heart disease may have
to restrict their exercise somewhat. If you have heart disease, check
with your doctor to find out what kinds of exercise are best for you.
Smoking is one of the three major risk
factors for heart disease. Quitting smoking dramatically lowers the
risk of a heart attack and also reduces the risk of a second heart
attack in people who have already had one.
Medications are prescribed according to
the nature of the patient's heart disease and other problems.
The symptoms of angina can generally be
controlled by "beta-blocker" drugs that decrease the workload on the
heart, by nitroglycerine and other "nitrates" and by "calcium-channel
blockers" that relax the arteries, and by other classes of drugs. The
tendency to form clots is reduced by aspirin or by other platelet
inhibitory and anticoagulant drugs. Beta-blockers are given to
decrease the recurrence of heart attack.
For those with elevated blood
cholesterol that is unresponsive to dietary and weight loss measures,
cholesterol-lowering drugs may be prescribed, such as lovastatin,
colestipol, cholestyramine, gemfibrozil, and niacin. Impaired pumping
function of the heart may be treated with digitalis drugs or ACE
inhibitors. If there is high blood pressure or fluid retention, these
conditions are also treated.
Ask your doctor which medication you
are taking, what it does, and whether there are any side effects.
Knowing more about this will help you stick to the schedule that has
been prescribed for you.