How is coronary artery disease treated?
Treatment of coronary artery disease involves reducing your risk factors, taking medications as prescribed, possibly undergoing invasive and/or surgical procedures, and seeing your doctor for regular visits. Treating coronary artery disease is important to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Reduce your Risk Factors
Reducing your risk factors involves making lifestyle changes. Your doctor will work with you to help you make these changes.
- If you smoke, you should quit.
- Make changes in your diet to reduce your cholesterol, control your blood pressure, and manage blood sugar if you have diabetes. Low-fat, low-sodium and low-cholesterol foods are recommended. Limiting alcohol to no more than one drink a day is also important. A registered dietitian can help you make the right dietary changes. Cleveland Clinic offers nutrition programs and classes to help you reach your goals.
- Increase your exercise/activity level to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress. But, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Ask your doctor about participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program.
- Test your 10 year risk for heart attack.
Take Medications as Prescribed
If lifestyle changes aren't enough to control your heart disease, medications may be prescribed to treat certain risk factors, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Your doctor will determine the best medications for you based on your personal needs, presence of other health conditions and your specific heart condition.
Have Procedures to Treat Coronary Artery Disease, as Recommended
Common interventional procedures to treat coronary artery disease include balloon angioplasty (PTCA) and stent or drug-eluting stent placement. These procedures are considered nonsurgical because they are done by a cardiologist (heart doctor), who accesses the heart using a long, thin tube (catheter) that is inserted into a blood vessel, rather than by a surgeon through an incision. Several types of balloons and/or catheters are available to treat the plaque build-up within the vessel wall. If you require an interventional treatment, your physician will determine the type that is best for you based on your individual needs.
One or more blocked coronary arteries are bypassed by a blood vessel graft to restore normal blood flow to the heart. These grafts usually come from the patient's own arteries and veins located in the chest, arm or leg. The graft goes around the clogged artery (or arteries) to create new pathways for oxygen-rich blood to flow to the heart.
When these traditional treatments are not options for you, doctors may suggest other less traditional therapies, such as enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP).
For patients who have persistent angina symptoms and have exhausted the standard treatments without successful results, EECP may stimulate the openings or formation of small branches of blood vessels (collaterals) to create a natural bypass around narrowed or blocked arteries. EECP is a noninvasive treatment for people who have chronic, stable angina; who are not receiving adequate relief from angina by taking nitrate medications; and who do not qualify for a procedure such as bypass surgery, angioplasty or stenting.
These procedures increase blood supply to your heart, but they do not cure coronary heart disease. You will still need to decrease your risk factors by making lifestyle changes, taking medications as prescribed and following your doctor's recommendations to reduce the risk of future disease development.
Your cardiologist will want to see you on a regular basis for a physical exam and possibly to perform diagnostic tests. Your doctor will use the information gained from these visits to monitor the progress of your treatment. Check with your cardiologist to find out when to schedule your next appointment.