Slowing the progression or early treatment of coronary heart disease (CHD) can avert future complications. Using a combination of lifestyle changes, surgery, or medicine, CHD can be managed to improve the quality of life.
The main benefit of prompt treatment is the alleviation of symptoms apart from improving the functioning of the heart.
How to live with coronary heart disease
The first thing to do after you’ve been diagnosed with CHD is to make lifestyle changes and reduce the risk of future attacks.
For instance, quitting smoking reduces the risk of a heart attack in the future. Eating healthy foods and taking part in regular exercise not only helps in weight loss but also improves your heart’s functions.
Many drugs treat Coronary Heart Disease either by reducing blood pressure or widening your arteries.
As some medicines have nasty side effects, speak with your health practitioner to find one that works best for you.
Until you talk to your doctor about any side effects you’re experiencing, you should follow the regimen through.
- Blood-thinning medicines
These are drugs that reduce the risk of a heart attack by thinning the blood and avoid clotting.
Such drugs are:
- Low dose aspirin
Statins are drugs that regulate or lower cholesterol.
Statins work by increasing the number of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors in the liver and inhibit cholesterol formation. By getting rid of excess cholesterol, they make a heart attack unlikely. A consultation with your doctor will find a statin that works best for you.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
ACE inhibitors are customarily used to manage high blood pressure. They work by inhibiting the hormone angiotensin-2 and prevent the narrowing of vessels. Examples are lisinopril and ramipril.
Reducing your blood pressure reduces the amount of work your heart does in pumping blood. When using ACE inhibitors, always monitor your blood pressure and have tests done to check for kidney function.
As a result of taking ACE inhibitors, some people (1 in 100 people) will develop an abnormal narrowing of renal vessels that affects circulation.
Common side effects of using ACE inhibitors include dizziness and a dry cough.
- Beta blockers
Beta blockers are also used in treating high blood pressure and manage angina. They include atenolol, labetalol, metoprolol, bisoprolol, and nebivolol.
They also slow down your heartbeat and improve heart function.
- Calcium channel blockers
These are drugs that inhibit calcium receptors in the heart, and reduce the force of contraction of the heart muscle, cause arteries to get more expansive, and control your blood pressure.
Examples are amlodipine, nifedipine, verapamil, and diltiazem.
You may experience mild side effects such as facial flushing and headaches.
- Angiotensin-2 receptor blockers (ARBs)
ARBs work in a similar manner as ACE inhibitors. Blood pressure is controlled by blocking the action of angiotensin-2 receptors. They are usually preferred to ACE inhibitors as they don’t cause a dry cough. Mild dizziness is the only side effect.
You may hear your doctor use the term vasodilators because nitrates cause your vessels to widen.
Nitrates come in many varieties, including sprays, tablets, and skin patches such as glyceryl trinitrate and isosorbide mononitrate. By increasing the size of your blood vessel lumen, nitrates allow more blood to pass through. They also reduce blood pressure and alleviate heart pain.
Mild side effects include flushed skin, headaches, and dizziness.
Also known as water pills, diuretics get rid of excess water from your circulatory system.
Procedures and surgery
When Coronary Heart Disease has progressed beyond where drugs and lifestyle changes are viable, surgery is used to get rid of fat plaques inside vessels. Surgical procedures are done to free vessels of the fat buildup (atheroma) and widen them, or bypass clogged arteries.
Below are some procedures used to treat blocked arteries:
- Coronary angioplasty
Doctors sometimes use the words percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PCTA), percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), or balloon angioplasty to refer to coronary angioplasty.
Coronary angioplasty is scheduled for someone with angina or as an emergency intervention in unstable patients.
Before the procedure, a coronary angiogram (an x-ray of blood vessels) will tell if you qualify for the process.
Coronary angioplasty as an emergency intervention after a heart attack. Usually, a small balloon is passed through fatty tissues and inflated in the narrowed artery to allow more blood to flow through.
A stent or mesh tube is placed in the widened artery to keep it open. Drug-eluting stents can also be used to prevent the artery from narrowing.
- Coronary artery bypass graft
Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), also known as bypass surgery, coronary artery bypass surgery, or heart bypass, is a procedure done on narrowed or blocked arteries. An angiogram is also used to identify suitable candidates.
Off-pump coronary artery bypass (OPCAB) is a unique type of coronary artery bypass surgery done while the heart is pumping without using a heart-lunch machine.
A blood vessel graft is placed between the aorta and the clogged coronary artery.
In some cases, a vessel that supplies the chest is used and diverted to one of the heart arteries. This allows blood to flow without having to pass through (bypass) the obstructed or narrowed segments.
When symptoms are too severe that drugs are not effective and it is not enough to undergo bypass surgery because the heart is frequently fatigued and unable to pump (heart failure), a heart transplant is the only solution.
This involves replacing the damaged heart with a healthy donor heart.
Life after the diagnosis
It is possible to live with a diagnosis of Coronary Heart Disease only if you follow the prescribed regimen and your doctor’s recommendations. Occasionally go for checkups to know how well you are managing the condition and prevent further complications.
Receive follow-up care
Remember to do everything your doctor tells you to and go through the entire regimen. Please don’t change anything unless they ask you to. Regulate your blood sugar and blood pressure.
Most important, report any side effects, new or worsening symptoms to your doctor as early as possible to avert a crisis.