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How Is Heart Disease Treated?

Treatment for coronary heart disease (CHD) usually is the same for both women and men. Treatment may include lifestyle changes, medicines, medical and surgical procedures, and cardiac rehabilitation (rehab).

The goals of treatment are to:

  • Relieve symptoms.
  • Reduce risk factors in an effort to slow, stop, or reverse the buildup of plaque.
  • Lower the risk of blood clots forming. (Blood clots can cause a heart attack.)
  • Widen or bypass plaque-clogged coronary (heart) arteries.
  • Prevent CHD complications.

Lifestyle Changes

Making lifestyle changes can help prevent or treat CHD. These changes may be the only treatment that some people need.

Quit Smoking

If you smoke or use tobacco, try to quit. Smoking can raise your risk for CHD and heart attack and worsen other CHD risk factors. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.

If you find it hard to quit smoking on your own, consider joining a support group. Many hospitals, workplaces, and community groups offer classes to help people quit smoking.

For more information about how to quit smoking, go to the Health Topics Smoking and Your Heart article and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI’s) “Your Guide to a Healthy Heart.”

Follow a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. A healthy diet includes a variety of vegetables and fruits. These foods can be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. A good rule is to try to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits.

A healthy diet also includes whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and protein foods, such as lean meats, poultry without skin, seafood, processed soy products, nuts, seeds, beans, and peas.

Choose and prepare foods with little sodium (salt). Too much salt can raise your risk for high blood pressure. Studies show that following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension(DASH) eating plan can lower blood pressure.

Try to avoid foods and drinks that are high in added sugars. For example, drink water instead of sugary drinks, like soda.

Also, try to limit the amount of solid fats and refined grains that you eat. Solid fats are saturated fat and trans fatty acids. Refined grains come from processing whole grains, which results in a loss of nutrients (such as dietary fiber).

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Research suggests that regularly drinking small to moderate amounts of alcohol may lower the risk of CHD. Women should have no more than one alcoholic drink a day.

One drink a day can lower your CHD risk by raising your HDL cholesterol level. One drink is a glass of wine, beer, or a small amount of hard liquor.

If you don’t drink, this isn’t a recommendation to start using alcohol. Also, you shouldn’t drink if you’re pregnant, if you’re planning to become pregnant, or if you have another health condition that could make alcohol use harmful.

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