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Heart Disease Treatments

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Presentation: Heart Disease
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Reviewed By: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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If you have heart disease, you may understandably hope that it's only a temporary problem, one that can be cured with medicine or surgery. But heart disease is a lifelong condition: Once you have it, you'll always have it.
It may also be sobering to realize that the condition of your blood vessels will steadily worsen unless you make changes in your daily habits. Many people die of complications from heart disease or become permanently disabled. That's why it is so vital to take action to control this serious condition.
The good news, however, is that you can control heart disease with one or several different types of treatment. Treatment options for heart disease include lifestyle changes, medications, and, if necessary, procedures or surgery.
Lifestyle changes are an important part of treatment for anyone with heart disease. These changes include watching your weight, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and, if you smoke, quitting. Lifestyle changes can go a long way in helping keep your heart disease from getting worse.
Medications may also be prescribed for heart disease. These medicines are used to treat the symptoms of heart disease. Medicines can also help treat many risk factors that can make heart disease worse, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. But it is again important to know that medicines do not fix the buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries that causes heart disease.
If medications and lifestyle changes are not effective, more invasive procedures may be necessary. One example is a catheter procedure called balloon angioplasty. During angioplasty, a balloon-like device is used to expand a blockage in the artery and restore blood flow. Sometimes, a stent, which is an expandable device, may then be used. The stent is mounted on a balloon catheter, similar to the one used for the angioplasty. It supports the artery and helps it remain open for a longer period of time. Depending on the type of blockage, an atherectomy may also be done. An atherectomy is used to open hardened blockages in your coronary arteries with a special pulverizing device.
Surgery is the final option for treating heart disease. This surgery is called a coronary artery bypass graft, or a CABG. Coronary artery bypass graft surgery takes a blood vessel from somewhere else in the body and uses it to bypass a blocked vessel in the heart. This improves the blood supply to the heart and, in turn, improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle.
Lifestyle changes, medications, procedures, and surgery are all important options for treating heart disease. They can help a person manage their heart condition, reduce their risk of a first or repeat heart attack, and improve their chances of living a long, rewarding life. For anyone with heart disease, the sooner they get started, the better the chances of avoiding further heart problems, feeling better, and staying well.

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