Cardiovascular Disease: Management and treatment options
The heart is like any other muscle in your body. It requires an adequate blood supply to provide oxygen to allow the muscle to contract and pump.
The heart does not pump blood to the rest of the body alone. It also pumps blood to itself via the coronary arteries. These arteries originate from the base of the aorta,the major blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart) and then branch out along the surface of the heart.
When one or more coronary arteries narrow, it may become very difficult for adequate blood to reach the heart, especially during exercise.
This can cause the heart muscle to ache like any other muscle in the body. If the arteries continue to narrow, it may take less activity to stress the heart and provoke symptoms. The classic symptoms of chest pain or pressure and shortness of breathe due to cardiovascular or coronary artery disease are called angina.
If any of the coronary arteries blocks completely—usually due to a plaque that ruptures and causes a blood clot to form, blood supply may be lost.
This leads to the death of a piece of heart muscle. This refers to as heart attack or myocardial infarction.
How Can Cardiovascular Disease Be Treated?
Although cardiovascular heart disease (CVD) has no known cure, treatment can help manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of further problems for you.
You can manage this condition with certain lifestyle changes, medicine, and some cases surgery. With the right treatment, the symptoms of cardiovascular disease can be reduced and the functioning of the heart improved.
Cardiovascular treatment options include:
If you have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, a very easy way to prevent further episodes is to make some lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes are;
- Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy balanced diet is very important for your general well being, so you shouldn’t be surprised if your doctor tells you diet plays a big role in improving your cardiovascular health.
A low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended. This diet should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day) and whole grains.
You should limit your daily intake of salt to no more than 6g (0.2oz) a day, as too much salt will increase your blood pressure. 6g of salt is about one teaspoonful. There are two types of fat: saturated and unsaturated.
You should avoid food containing saturated fats, because these foods will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.
Foods that are loaded with saturated fats include;
- Hard cheese
- Cakes and biscuits
- Foods that contain coconut oil or palm oil
- Meat pies
Your diet should still include unsaturated fats, which have been shown to increase levels of good cholesterol and help reduce any blockage in your arteries.
Foods that contain unsaturated fats include;
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oils
- Oily fish
Also avoid adding sugar to your diet. Sugar can increase the risk of diabetes, which may increase your chances of getting cardiovascular disease.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight increases your chance of getting cardiovascular disease. Check your BMI. Your GP or practice nurse can tell you what your ideal weight is in relation to your height and build.
- Be Physically Active
The best way to maintaining a healthy weight is combining a healthy diet with regular exercise. Having a healthy weight greatly reduces your chances of developing high blood pressure.
Regular exercise will help you make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol level, and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
Aerobic exercises like running, swimming, cycling, brisk walking, rowing should be done if you have cardiovascular disease. They help improve the cardiovascular system.
- Quit Smoking
If you have being smoking, giving it up will reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Smoking is a major risk factor for developing atherosclerosis (furring of the arteries). It also causes the majority of cases of coronary thrombosis in people under the age of 50.
- Limit or Avoid Alcohol
Avoiding alcohol will benefit your cardiovascular health. If you drink alcohol, do not exceed the maximum recommended limit.
Men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week. Spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.
- Keep Your Blood Pressure Under Control
Eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat and exercising regularly will help keep your blood pressure under control. If required taking the appropriate medication to lower your blood pressure.
Your target blood pressure should be below 140/85mmHg. If you have high blood pressure, ask your GP to check your blood pressure regularly.
- Keep Your Diabetes Under Control
If you are diabetic, you are at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. If you have diabetes, being physically active and controlling your weight and blood pressure will help manage your blood sugar level.
Your target blood pressure level should be below 130/80mmHg.
- Take Your Medications
If you have cardiovascular disease, your doctor may prescribe medication to help relieve your symptoms and stop further problems developing.
If you do not have cardiovascular disease but do have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or a history of family heart disease, your doctor may prescribe medication to prevent you developing heart-related problems.
If you are prescribed medication, it is essential that you take your medication and follow the recommended dosage. Do not stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor first, as doing so is likely to make your symptoms worse and put your health at risk.
A number of different medicines are used to treat CHD. Usually these medications either aim to reduce blood pressure or widen your arteries.
Some heart medicines have side effects, so it may take a while to find one that works for you. Your GP or specialist will discuss the various options with you.
You shouldn’t stop your heart medicines suddenly without the advice of your doctor as there is a risk this may make your symptoms worse.
Medication treatment options include:
These are a type of medicine that can help reduce the risk of a heart attack by thinning your blood and preventing it clotting.
If you have a high cholesterol level, a cholesterol-lowering medicine called statins may be prescribed for you.
Examples include atorvastatin, simvastatin, rosuvastatin and pravastatin.
Statins work by blocking the formation of cholesterol and increasing the number of LDL receptors in the liver, which helps remove the LDL cholesterol from your blood.
This helps slow the progression of cardiovascular disease, and will make having a heart attack less likely to occur.
Not all statins are suitable for everyone, so you may need to try several different types until you find one that is suitable for you.
- · Beta-blockers
Beta-blockers, including atenolol, bisoprolol, metoprolol and nebivolol are often used to prevent angina and treat high blood pressure. These medications work by blocking the effects of a particular hormone in the body, which slows down your heartbeat and improves blood flow.
- · Nitrates
Nitrates are used for widening of your blood vessels. Doctors sometimes refer to nitrates as vasodilators.
Nitrates are available in a variety of forms which includes tablets, sprays and skin patches such as glyceryltrinitrate and isosorbidemononitrate.
Nitrates work by relaxing your blood vessels, letting more blood pass through them. This lowers your blood pressure and relieves any heart pain you have. Some mild side effects, including headaches, dizziness and flushed skin have been associated with Nitrates.
- · ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors
ACE inhibitors are commonly used to treat high blood pressure. Examples include ramipril and lisinopril.
These medicines block the activity of a hormone called angiotensin II, which causes the blood vessels to narrow. As well as stopping the heart working so hard, ACE inhibitors improve the flow of blood around the body.
Your blood pressure will be monitored while you are taking ACE inhibitors, and regular blood tests will be needed to check that your kidneys are working properly. Around 1 in 10 people have kidney problems as a result of taking the drug.
Dry cough and dizziness are side effects that are associated with these medications.
- · Angiotensin II receptor antagonists
Angiotensin II receptor antagonists and ACE inhibitors work in a similar way. They are used to lower your blood pressure by blocking angiotensin II.
Mild dizziness is usually the only side effect associated with this medication. They are often prescribed as an alternative to ACE inhibitors, as they do not cause a dry cough.
- · Calcium channel blockers
These medications also work to decrease blood pressure by relaxing the muscles that make up the walls of your arteries. This causes the arteries to become wider, reducing your blood pressure. Examples include amlodipine, verapamil and diltiazem.
Side effects associated with calcium channel blockers include headaches and facial flushing, but these are mild and usually decrease over time.
- · Diuretics
Also known as water pills, diuretics work by flushing excess water and salt from the body through urine.
Procedures and Sugery
If diet, lifestyle changes and medications aren’t enough, it’s possible that your doctor will recommend specific procedures or surgery.
The type of procedure recommended will depend on the type of cardiovascular disease and the extent of the damage to the affected areas.
Natural Treatments For Cardiovascular Disease
Some nutritional supplements and herbs have been proven to be effective in treating cardiovascular disease.
Some of these natural treatments may interfere with your prescription drug or may not be suitable for some cases. So, make sure you seek the advice of your doctor before you take these herbs and remedies.
Effective home remedies for cardiovascular disease are:
Turmeric is popularly known to be effective in maintaining heart health. It has an active ingredient called curcumin which aids in the maintenance of heart health by reducing cholesterol oxidation, plaque buildup and clot formation.
Turmeric also helps lower LDL and provides anti-inflammatory benefits. Being a potent antioxidant, it helps neutralize free radicals that contribute to aging and several chronic diseases.
Use turmeric regularly in your cooking. You can also boil one teaspoon of turmeric powder in one cup of water or milk. Drink it once or twice daily for several weeks to a few months.
Alternatively, you can take turmeric in supplement form. The general dosage is 400 to 600 mg of standardized curcumin powder supplement three times daily.
Ensure you consult your doctor for the proper dosage suitable for your case.
Garlic is commonly known to be a remedy for many ailments. It has been proven to be beneficial for conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary heart disease.
This powerful herb helps slow the development of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
Garlic also improves circulation and has antithrombotic and antiplatelet aggregatory effects.
Eat one or two freshly crushed garlic cloves daily. If you find the taste of garlic too strong, drink a glass of milk after eating it.
Alternatively, you can take garlic supplements. The general recommendation of the supplement is 600 to 1,200 mg of garlic extract divided into three equal doses per day.
Caution: Garlic may interfere with certain medications due to its blood-thinning properties. Consult your doctor before taking this herb.
Fenugreek is widely known for its ability to supply the body with antioxidant and cardio-protective benefits.
This powerful herb is excellent for reducing the risk of atherosclerosis due to its strong modulating effect on blood lipid levels.
Fenugreek also has the ability to reduce platelet aggregation, thus decreasing the risk of abnormal blood clotting associated with heart attacks and strokes. It also helps lower cholesterol, blood sugar and excess fat.
Soak one teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in water overnight. The next morning, eat the soaked seeds on an empty stomach. Do this everyday for a few months.
- Green Tea
Green tea is widely known to be loaded with powerful antioxidants that improve the health of cells that form the innermost lining of the heart and blood vessels. It helps reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Green tea also helps control blood sugar and boosts metabolism.
Drink three to four cups of green tea (preferably caffeine-free) daily. Alternatively, you can take 100 to750 mg standardized green tea extract per day.
If you are living with heart disease, the most important thing to have in mind is that the future is not blank.
Listening to the advice of your doctor, making positive lifestyle changes, and knowing where to look for the support you need, can help you maintain a full and productive lifestyle. Learn more here