Treating cardiovascular disease

Coronary heart disease is the most common form of cardiovascular disease and is one of the world’s biggest killers. Therefore rapid and effective treatments are necessary and since 2000 there has been a 40 % decrease in deaths from heart disease in people under 75 in the US.

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There are many different measures to take when it comes to cardiovascular disease and the right treatment can improve the function of the heart and reduce possible complications. There are even preventative measures to take to improve your chances of not being affected by coronary heart disease, in particular. If you haven't been able to prevent the disease, there are steps to take to improve your situation.

How do you treat cardiovascular disease?

If you are diagnosed with coronary heart disease, you need to start treatment right away. The first step is usually medications. Since the heart is a complicated “machine” there are many different medicines to treat the exact problem.
- Antiplatelets: A blood thinner that helps reduce the risk of heart attack by preventing the blood from clotting.
- Statins: A cholesterol-lowering medicine which helps slow the progression of coronary heart disease.
- Beta blockers: Slows your heart beat and improves blood flow. Used to prevent angina and high blood pressure
- Nitrates: Widens your blood vessels by making them relax, so the blood can flow better. Lowers blood pressure and relieves chest pain
- ACE (Angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors; blocks a hormone which causes blood vessels to narrow. Is used to treat high blood pressure.
- Calcium channel blockers : Widens your arteries by making the walls around the arteries relax, so the blood can flow better

If medicine is not enough to relieve symptoms, surgery may be the next step. Surgery often aims to open up or replace blocked arteries. The most common surgeries for this purpose are:

- Coronary angioplasty: The common surgery used as an emergency treatment during a heart attack. A small balloon is used to push away the fatty materials blocking the arteries, so blood can flow better. A metal stent is usually inserted as well, to hold the artery open. It is also possible to use drug-eluting stents which release a drug that keeps the arteries from narrowing again.
- Coronary artery bypass graft: Also known as “bypass”. A blood vessel is inserted between the aorta and a part of the coronary artery beyond the narrowed or blocked area. By doing this, the blood can bypass (get around) the narrowed sections.
- Heart transplant: Only used if the heart is too damaged and the medicine is not working, or if you experience heart failure (the heart is no longer able to pump enough blood through the body). This is only rarely necessary.

No matter how severe your cardiovascular disease is, you should always consider a change in lifestyle. There are several areas where you can improve your own situation, such as smoking, diet and exercise. If you stop smoking after a heart attack you can reduce the risk of getting another heart attack to that of a non-smoker.

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