Treatment for coronary artery disease usually involves lifestyle changes and, if necessary, drugs and certain medical procedures.
Making a commitment to the following healthy lifestyle changes can go a long way toward promoting healthier arteries:
- Quit smoking.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Exercise regularly.
- Lose excess weight.
- Reduce stress.
Various drugs can be used to treat coronary artery disease, including:
- Cholesterol-modifying medications. By decreasing the amount of cholesterol in the blood, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or the "bad") cholesterol, these drugs decrease the primary material that deposits on the coronary arteries. Your doctor can choose from a range of medications, including statins, niacin, fibrates and bile acid sequestrants.
- Aspirin. Your doctor may recommend taking a daily aspirin or other blood thinner. This can reduce the tendency of your blood to clot, which may help prevent obstruction of your coronary arteries. If you've had a heart attack, aspirin can help prevent future attacks. There are some cases where aspirin isn't appropriate, such as if you have a bleeding disorder or you're already taking another blood thinner, so ask your doctor before starting to take aspirin.
- Beta blockers. These drugs slow your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure, which decreases your heart's demand for oxygen. If you've had a heart attack, beta blockers reduce the risk of future attacks.
- Nitroglycerin. Nitroglycerin tablets, sprays and patches can control chest pain by opening up your coronary arteries and reducing your heart's demand for blood.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). These similar drugs decrease blood pressure and may help prevent progression of coronary artery disease. If you've had a heart attack, ACE inhibitors reduce the risk of future attacks.
Procedures to restore and improve blood flow
Sometimes more aggressive treatment is needed. Here are some options:
Apr. 12, 2014
Angioplasty and stent placement (percutaneous coronary revascularization). Your doctor inserts a long, thin tube (catheter) into the narrowed part of your artery. A wire with a deflated balloon is passed through the catheter to the narrowed area. The balloon is then inflated, compressing the deposits against your artery walls.
A stent is often left in the artery to help keep the artery open. Some stents slowly release medication to help keep the artery open.
- Coronary artery bypass surgery. A surgeon creates a graft to bypass blocked coronary arteries using a vessel from another part of your body. This allows blood to flow around the blocked or narrowed coronary artery. Because this requires open-heart surgery, it's most often reserved for cases of multiple narrowed coronary arteries.
- Coronary heart disease. National Lung, Heart, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Cad/CAD_WhatIs.html. Accessed October 6, 2013.
- Smith SC, et al. American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology Foundation Secondary prevention and risk reduction therapy for patients with coronary and other Atherosclerotic Vascular Disease: 2011 update. Circulation. 2011;124:2458.
- The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Bethesda, Md.: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/hypertension/jnc7full.htm. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Executive summary of the Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol/index.htm. Accessed Oct. 6, 2013.
- Natural product effectiveness checker: High cholesterol. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Natural product effectiveness checker: Hypertension. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
- Omega-3 supplements: An introduction. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/omega3/introduction.htm. Accessed Oct. 6, 2013.
- Wilson PWF. Overview of possible risk factors for cardiovascular disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 6, 2013.
- Hanson MA, et al. Coronary Artery Disease. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice. 2013;40:1.
- Wilson PWF. Overview of the risk equivalents and established risk factors for cardiovascular disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Oct. 6, 2013.
- Weintraub H. Update on marine omega-3 fatty acids: Management of dyslipidemia and current omega-3 treatment options. Atherosclerosis. 2013;230:381.
- Grogan M (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 16, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.