Living with coronary artery disease

When you have coronary artery disease, it is important to take care of your heart. This is especially true if you have had an interventional procedure or surgery to improve blood flow to the heart. Procedures do not cure coronary artery disease. It is up to you to take steps to stop the disease from progressing. By learning more about your disease, making appropriate lifestyle changes and following your treatment plan, you can live a longer, fuller life. Remember - you play the major role in managing your heart disease. Your treatment plan includes:

1. Know the symptoms for coronary artery disease

The symptoms for coronary artery disease include:

  • Chest discomfort (described as heaviness, tightness, pressure, aching, burning, numbness, fullness, or squeezing). It can be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. Angina is usually felt in the chest, but may also be felt in the left shoulder, arms, neck, back or jaw.
  • Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body including the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Sweating or “cold sweat”
  • Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like “heartburn”)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Light-headedness, dizziness, extreme weakness or anxiety
  • Rapid or irregular heart beats

Call your doctor if symptoms become more frequent or severe.

Call for emergency assistance if rest and/or medications in do not relieve symptoms in 5 minutes. DO NOT WAIT.

2. Decrease your risk factors

The more risk factors you have and the longer they have been present, the greater risk you have for further coronary artery disease. It is up to you to make lifestyle changes to eliminate as many risk factors as possible to increase your chances of good health. Risk factors for cardiovascular health include:

  • Smoking or the use of tobacco products
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Uncontrolled stress or anger
  • Diet high in transfats, saturated fats and cholesterol

Talk to your health care team about ways you can decrease your risk factors - or learn steps you can take to control cardiovascular risk factors

3. Take your medications

Symptoms of coronary artery disease can occur when the heart's demand for oxygen is greater than the supply of blood provided by your coronary arteries. Medications may be needed to help your heart work more efficiently. Medical management may vary greatly from person to person. Your doctor or nurse will discuss your personal treatment plan with you.

4. If necessary, have invasive procedures or surgery

Invasive procedures (such as angioplasty or stents) or coronary artery bypass surgery may be needed to treat your narrowed or blocked artery. These procedures increase blood supply to your heart but they are not a cure for coronary artery disease. You will still need to focus on reducing your risk factors to prevent or reduce future disease development. If these procedures are necessary, our cardiologist or surgeon will discuss the specific procedure that is right for you.

5. See your cardiologist for regular visits

Schedule regular appointments with your cardiologist (even if you have no symptoms). Your appointments may be spaced once a year, or more often, if your doctor feels you need to be followed more closely. Your appointments should include a medical exam and possibly, diagnostic tests. Your doctor will use the information gained from these visits to monitor the progress of your treatment. Check with your heart doctor to find out when to schedule your next appointment.

Call your doctor sooner if your symptoms worsen or become more severe or frequent.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/24/2019.

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