Diagnosis and treatment
Your cardiologist will review your medical history, perform a physical exam, and order tests to help diagnose heart disease. Common tests include:
- Blood tests to check levels of cholesterol and other fats, blood sugar, and markers of a heart attack
- Chest X-ray that makes a still picture of your heart
- EKG to show the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat
- Echocardiogram to create images of your moving heart and valves as your heart beats
- Stress testing that shows whether your heart can tolerate increased work
- Cardiac catheterization, which uses X-rays to look inside your heart and coronary arteries
Treatments for heart disease depend on your overall health and specific condition. Your personalized treatment plan may include medications, lifestyle changes, and medical procedures or surgery. Common treatments include:
- Correcting physical problems such as narrowed arteries
- Relieving symptoms
- Preventing complications
- Reducing risk factors such as a high-fat and high-cholesterol diet
In some cases, heart disease may require surgical intervention to prevent a heart attack or other life-threatening complications and maintain the health of the heart muscle.
Heart disease research is ongoing, with new potential treatments being tested regularly.
Unfortunately, once heart disease progresses, the damage to your arteries, heart muscle, and vessels can sometimes not be reversed unless you get a heart transplant.
However, it’s often possible to manage coronary heart disease symptoms using medications that reduce blood pressure, prevent clotting, reduce blood cholesterol levels, or widen your arteries, and possibly through surgeries to increase blood flow and protect your heart muscle.
Instead of eliminating heart disease, most treatments for heart disease focus on preventing or managing it, helping you make changes in your life to make heart disease and complications such as heart attacks less likely.
Heart disease symptoms can often be managed with this approach. Lifestyle changes like the above may slow its progression. The best tactic is still prevention. The best time to stop heart disease is before you develop it.
Exercise, a healthy diet, and developing healthy stress coping mechanisms are all also useful tools for promoting heart health, regardless of whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease.
When to seek emergency care for heart disease
If you think you may be having a heart attack, dial 911. Along with chest pain, heart attack symptoms may include:
- Cold sweats
- Nausea and vomiting
- A feeling of unease or impending doom
- Pain in the arms, chest, shoulders, back, neck, or jaw
If you do experience a heart attack, the faster you can get medical care, the better.
Heart attacks happen every 43 seconds, on average in the United States. Keep in mind though, that heart disease is often preventable and treatable. If you think you are at risk of developing heart disease or have symptoms, the sooner you can speak to a medical professional, the more likely you will be able to avoid a heart attack.
Dignity Health provides personal care and treatment for heart disease. Schedule an appointment to check your risk factors.