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Coronary heart disease treatment

There is no cure for coronary heart disease. However, if you have coronary heart disease (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
  • anti-anginal medications (nitrates) - are 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
  • ACE inhibitors - are commonly used to treat high blood pressure
  • beta-blockers - are often used to prevent angina and treat high blood pressure. They work by blocking the effects of a particular hormone in the body and this slows down your heartbeat and improves blood flow
  • statins - if you have a high blood cholesterol level, cholesterol-lowering medicine called 'statins' may be prescribed
  • clopidogrel - is used to inhibit blood clotting
  • warfarin - is used as a blood thinning agent that reduces the formation of blood clots.

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 www.heartfoundation.org.au

Angioplasty and stent implantation

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 angina.

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.

Source: NHS Choices, UK (Treating heart disease)

Last reviewed: August 2015

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