Fifty years ago, many people did not survive heart attacks and didn’t have many of the treatment options available today. Early detection of heart problems and improved treatments have helped to dramatically reduce death rates from heart disease. Heart disease is a chronic disease with no cure. When someone has coronary artery disease, it is important that they take good care of their heart for the rest of their life. This is especially true if the individual has had an interventional procedure or surgery to improve blood flow to the heart. Procedures do not cure coronary artery disease. It is up to the person with the disease to take the necessary steps to stop the disease from progressing.
There are key steps a person can take to stay healthy when they have heart disease. Avoiding all tobacco use and exposure is important, coronary heart disease and stroke are the primary types of cardiovascular disease caused by smoking and are the first and third leading causes of death in the United States. Smoking-related heart disease results in more deaths per year than smoking-related lung cancer.
Regular exercise is also important in people with heart disease. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can strengthen the heart and cardiovascular system, improve circulation and help the body use oxygen more efficiently, improve heart failure symptoms, increase energy levels, increase endurance, lower blood pressure, and help reduce stress, tension, anxiety and depression.
With heart disease a good diet is essential. Things like eating more fish, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are a step in the right direction to help reduce risk for those with heart disease. It’s also good for individuals with heart disease to lower cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels, especially in high-risk people. Limiting dietary cholesterol has an added bonus of cutting out saturated fat, as cholesterol and saturated fat are usually found in the same foods.
Sometimes, medications may be needed to help prevent or control coronary heart disease and so reduce the risk of a first or repeat heart attack. But, if medications are needed, lifestyle changes still must be undertaken. Some medications that may be prescribed are; Aspirin, which helps to lower the risk of a heart attack for those who have already had one. It also helps to keep arteries open in those who have had a previous heart bypass or other artery-opening procedure such as coronary angioplasty. Digitalis, makes the heart contract harder and is used when the heart’s pumping function has been weakened; it also slows some fast heart rhythms. An angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor stops the production of a chemical that makes blood vessels narrow and is used to help control high blood pressure and for damaged heart muscle. It may be prescribed after a heart attack to help the heart pump blood better. It is also used for persons with heart failure, a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs. There are many more types of medication used in connection with heart disease.
With heart disease it’s important that people visit their doctors regularly. Only a doctor can diagnose and treat heart disease. When a healthy lifestyle is adopted early it can help reduce the risk of heart disease all together.