If heart disease is not severe, making healthier lifestyle choices can effectively eliminate symptoms or reduce risk. Quitting smoking, improving your diet, and exercising regularly can all help improve heart disease.
There are several medications used to treat many of the conditions that make up heart disease. These drugs can help the heart work more effectively, prevent blood-vessel blockages, relieve symptoms of heart failure, cure heart infection, and more.
One way to directly access the heart without surgery is to thread a long, thin tube called a catheter from a blood vessel in the groin, arm, or neck up to the heart. The catheter can then be used for several different procedures.
In this procedure, a small balloon is inserted into a narrowed section of the coronary artery and inflated to expand the artery and allow blood to flow naturally. Angioplasty is a very common treatment for coronary artery disease.
This procedure is similar to angioplasty, except the balloon is inserted into one of the heart's valves and inflated to open valves that cannot open fully due to congenital abnormalities or deposits of calcium that have formed on the valve.
Catheterization can also be used to reshape and repair faulty valves in the heart.
This procedure is used to correct arrhythmias. Tools inserted through the catheter are used to destroy small areas of cells within the heart that may cause the irregular heartbeat. This can also be used for certain types of cardiomyopathy.
In certain types of congenital heart defect, the malformation can be repaired using tiny tools inserted through the catheter.
In more severe cases of heart disease, surgical procedures are used to repair problems or even to replace the heart entirely.
Bypass surgery circumvents a blocked section of the coronary arteries with blood vessels removed from other areas of the body (typically the leg).
Diseased heart valves can be removed and replaced, either with valves made from artificial materials or valves from a pig, cow, or human donor.
Surgery can be used to implant various devices in the chest to assist the heart. These include implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) that detect arrhythmias and shock the heart into normal rhythm; pacemakers that use electrical impulses to quicken the heartbeat if it gets too slow; and ventricular assist devices (VADs) that help the heart pump blood if it is failing.
Serious congenital heart defects must be repaired via open-heart surgery to close holes in the heart or fix malformed valves. This type of surgery is most commonly performed on babies or very young children.
In cases where the heart is severely damaged, it can be removed entirely and replaced with a healthy heart from a cadaver donor. There are many more people needing transplants than there are donor hearts, so there is a long waiting list for heart transplants.