Although coronary bypass surgery, angioplasty and heart transplants may be effective for some extreme forms of heart disease, healthcare providers now realize that lifestyle changes, combined with a judicious use of medication, can be effective in treating coronary artery disease, the primary cause of heart attacks.
Often coronary artery disease is the result of too much of certain foods, especially those that are high in fat and cholesterol. For this, a healthcare provider might prescribe a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and perhaps cholesterol-lowering drugs.
High blood pressure is hard on the arteries but can be lowered by a low-salt diet, regular exercise, stress-reduction and prescribed blood-pressure medication.
Being overweight makes the heart work harder and contributes to high blood pressure, diabetes and a sedentary lifestyle, which are all implicated in atherosclerosis and heart disease. After a thorough checkup, your healthcare provider may prescribe a weight-loss program.
Regular exercise strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure and increases levels of HDL cholesterol. High levels of HDL cholesterol have been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease. Many healthcare providers prescribe a regimen of regular, moderate exercise, such as walking 30 to 60 minutes a day.
Because smoking has been proven to damage the arteries, most healthcare providers advise their patients to quit smoking. Some may prescribe nicotine gum or patches to help patients kick their habit.
Surgery is not always the only way to treat coronary artery disease. If you have some form of heart disease, or if you want to learn how to prevent it, consult your healthcare provider or call the local chapter of the American Heart Association.