Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are the first line of defense against CAD, and for many people with CAD, these may be the only treatment needed. Making your day-to-day life healthier can make a big difference in your cardiovascular health. Examples of lifestyle changes to treat CAD might include the following.

Quit Smoking

If you are a smoker, the number one thing you can do to improve your heart health and reduce complications of CAD is to quit smoking. If you need help quitting, visit the Smoking Cessation Learning Center.

Increase Physical Activity

Regular physical activity can lower levels of LDL cholesterol, reduce your blood pressure, and help you lose weight. These changes, in turn, can all reduce your risk for CAD-related complications.

Learn safe ways to increase your physical activity.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese severely increases your CAD risk. If you are carrying extra unhealthy poinds, the National Institutes of Health recommends that, within your first year of treatment, you should aim to reduce your weight by 7 to 10 percent. This amount of weight loss can reduce your risk for CAD-related complications. Eventually, you should aim to lose enough weight to bring your body mass index (BMI) down to less than 25.

Get tips on losing or maintaining weight in a healthy way.

Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet Plan

Besides helping you maintain a healthy weight, heart-healthy diets can lower your blood pressure, improve your lipid profile, and give you more energy to increase physical activity.

Learn more about heart-healthy eating.

Reduce Stress

Chronic stress is a serious health condition. Too much stress can increase your blood pressure, and typical responses to overwhelming stress—drinking, smoking, and overeating—are not heart-friendly. Learning to cope with stress can pay huge dividends in the long run. Research shows that a bout of anger can increase your chances of having a heart attack by a factor of 14 during the following two hours.

Read about ways to reduce stress.

Medication

If lifestyle changes alone are not enough, your doctor may prescribe medications. Drugs can play an important role in treating the complications of CAD. For example, cardiac drugs can control high blood pressure and promote blood flow in patients with heart failure.

Medications to Treat Angina

If you have angina, your doctor may prescribe nitroglycerin or long-acting nitrates.

Learn about medications that treat angina. 

Medications to Suppress Platelet Activity

Drugs that suppress platelet activity can lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Learn about medications that suppress platelet activity.

Medications to Reduce Cholesterol

If lifestyle changes are not effective, your doctor may prescribe daily medications such as statins to help keep your blood cholesterol in check.

Learn more about medications that reduce cholesterol.

Other Drugs

Your doctor may also prescribe certain other types of drugs, such as calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors in order to ease the symptoms of CAD and lower your risk for future complications like heart attacks.

Learn about other medications that treat CAD.

Surgery

Surgery may be required if medications fail. Patients who have had surgery may be given medications to help keep their other coronary arteries healthy or prevent a recurrence of disease.

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG)

 In "cabbage" surgery, as the docs pronounce it, a section of a vein or artery from elsewhere in the body, such as the leg, is grafted to the narrowed coronary artery. This graft detours the blood around the diseased portion of the vessel so that it can reach the heart.

Angioplasty

Angioplasty involves threading a long, narrow balloon into the artery and inflating it to compress plaque against the wall of a narrowed artery. More than a million people have angioplasty every year in the United States.

Stent Placement

A screen-like mesh tube called a stent may be placed during angioplasty or in a separate procedure. The stent acts as a sort of miniature rebar to reinforce the weakened coronary artery.

Treatment of Arrhythmias

Arrhythmias caused by CAD are treated with medications, catheterization procedures, device placement, or open-heart surgery, including bypass procedures. For example, sometimes a permanent pacemaker is placed. A pacemaker is so called because it paces the rate at which the heart muscle contracts, ensures the regularity of the contractions, and helps the heart contract with consistent force. A similar device called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) can deliver an electrical shock to restore the heart's normal rhythm when the device senses the type of arrhythmia that can cause sudden cardiac death.

Visit the Arrhythmia Learning Center