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Coronary heart disease treatment

3-minute read

There is no cure for coronary heart disease (CHD). However, if you have CHD, there are a range of treatments your doctor might recommend to reduce your risk of future heart problems, and relieve or manage symptoms.

Medicines

There is now a wide range of medicines to treat CHD and its risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high total blood cholesterol levels. Common medicines (or classes of medicines) include:

  • low-dose aspirin — may be prescribed for you by your doctor unless there are reasons not to, for example if you have a bleeding disorder. This type of medicine will help prevent your blood clotting and can help to reduce your risk of heart attack and angina
  • medicines to treat angina, called nitrates, used to dilate your blood vessels. Doctors sometimes refer to nitrates as 'vasodilators'. They are available in a variety of forms, including tablets, sprays, skin patches and ointments
  • medicines to treat high blood pressure, including ACE inhibitors and beta blockers
  • medicines to treat high cholesterol and remove plaque from the arteries, including medicines called statins
  • antiplatelet medicines including clopidogrel to stop the blood from clotting
  • medicines to prevent blood clots from forming and to treat existing clots, including warfarin

Taking these medicines as prescribed can greatly reduce your risk of further heart problems.

Remember: Most medicines will need to be taken for the long term.

You can learn more about medicines for heart problems at the Heart Foundation website.

Angioplasty and stent implantation

Angioplasty is where a tube is inserted into an artery in your groin, fed up to an artery in your heart and a small balloon is inflated in a narrowed part of the artery to improve blood flow to the heart muscle.

After angioplasty is performed, a special expandable metal tube (a 'stent') is usually put into your artery, expanded, and left in place to keep your artery open.

Bypass surgery

Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (often shortened to CABG and pronounced 'cabbage') is an operation in which a blood vessel is taken from your chest, leg or forearm and grafted to your coronary artery to let blood 'detour' past a narrowing in this artery. This improves blood flow to your heart muscle and reduces the risk of angina or heart attack.

Thrombolytic therapy

Medicines are given through a drip to remove a blood clot that is blocking an artery.

Implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICD)

An ICD is a small device that can be put into your chest and connected to your heart to monitor and correct your heartbeat.

It can either stop an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) by pacing your heart, or in more serious situations, it can give your heart a controlled electric shock to try to return it to its normal rhythm.

ICDs can also support your heartbeat like a pacemaker if it is beating very slowly, and collect and store information about your heart's electrical activity for your doctor to check.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2020


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