Ask an Expert

Treatments

Learn how heart conditions are treated and the benefits and possible risks that come along with each type of treatment.

  • What should I do if I have red, inflamed gums?

  • Even if you’re not worried about heart disease—but especially if you are—you should see your dentist or periodontal specialist. It’s important to follow their recommendations for treating your gum disease. Good care of your teeth and gums requires some effort every day, but it will keep you healthier. Remember, it’s not just your smile that’s at stake—it could be your heart.
  • What should I do if I have side effects from high-dose simvastatin?

  • If you are experiencing muscle pain, tenderness, weakness, tiredness, or dark or red colored urine, call your doctor immediately. These are signs of possible muscle injury and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
  • How can I reduce my exposure to air pollutants?

  • Although it is impossible to completely avoid exposure to any air pollutants, you can check local air quality conditions on the news or weather and try to go outside when air quality conditions are best (often early morning or evening and in cooler temperatures). Also, avoid being outside around traffic-congested streets where pollution can be heavy.
  • How are stents placed in blocked arteries?

  • Stents are placed in the artery through a flexible tube called a catheter during angioplasty. Most often made of metal mesh, stents expands once in place, helping to strengthen the walls of the artery and prevent future blockage.

  • How can I achieve optimal fitness?

  • Experts have found that to achieve important health benefits, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (i.e., brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week, incorporating muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week. And although it may sound like a lot, that’s only 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 days a week, or 25 minutes of vigorous physical activity 3 times a week. Each adult should check with his/her care team for an activity plan that is best for him/her.
  • How do doctors determine what types of treatment a person gets?

  • If you have unstable angina or NSTEMI, the doctor will take review your ECG, blood tests, and other cardiac exams to look for signs of heart muscle damage from your most recent coronary event. He or she will also take into account whether you have ongoing heart problems such as irregular heart rhythms, indications of heart failure, or a history of angina or previous heart attack. Your risk level and an appropriate treatment plan will be formulated based on this information.
  • How do anti-clot medications work?

  • Anticoagulants, or anti-clot medications, such as heparin and warfarin, prevent the production of certain proteins needed for blood to clot. As a result, they can help keep existing blood clots from getting larger and prevent new ones from forming.
  • How do drug-eluting stents differ from other types of stents?

  • The two main types of stents—bare-metal stents and drug-eluting stents—perform the same function of keeping the artery open and preventing it from collapsing. However, drug-eluting stents have the added function of preventing clots and tissue from forming around the stent by releasing medication.
  • How do femoral and radial access differ when it comes to angioplasty (percutaneous coronary intervention)?

  • The procedures for PCI remain the same, aside from access points for catheterization. However, by utilizing radial access, the patient does not need to lay down for the procedure, which helps decrease discomfort and pain. Also, femoral access can be complicated by excess fat in overweight patients, whereas the wrist remains thin in all patients, making radial access less difficult, particularly in overweight and obese patients.
  • How do statins work?

  • Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs that help prevent the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Combined with healthy lifestyle choices like eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, statins can be extremely effective in reducing risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

  • How can patients help improve medication adherence on their own?

  • Patients can help improve adherence by understanding how their medications work, taking their medications at the same time(s) each day, using notes or alarms as reminders to take medications, and allowing family or friends to help support them.
  • How can I reduce my sleep-time blood pressure?
  • Patients can decrease their sleep-time blood pressure the same way that they reduce their awake blood pressure: maintaining a healthy diet and weight, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking. There are also a number of medications that doctors can prescribe to help lower blood pressure, which can be useful, particularly in combination with positive lifestyle changes.
  • Are there differences among different types of statins?

  • Yes. Statins can differ in many ways, including efficacy, side effects and drug interactions. The type of statin that is right for a patient depends on his or her unique needs, as determined by a health care provider.
  • Can I control my blood pressure without medication?

  • You can help reduce or control your blood pressure through healthy lifestyle changes—maintaining a healthy weight, eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising regularly. Also, for smokers, quitting smoking can help drastically improve blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular risk. However, for some patients, making these changes may not be enough to properly control blood pressure and medication may be necessary.
  • Can depression be treated?

  • Yes. Depression, often described as feeling sad or unhappy, is relatively common and can be treated in a variety of ways, like through medication and counseling.
  • Am I eligible for weight-loss surgery?

  • Weight-loss surgery is often an option for obese individuals who have not seen results with diet and exercise. However, not all patients are eligible for surgery if they have other risk factors that could complicate the procedure. If you are interested in surgery, discuss your concerns and weight-loss options with your healthcare provider.
  • Are stents only used to treat heart attack patients?

  • No. Although this study analyzed the use of stents in heart attack patients, stents can also be used to help prevent heart attack in patients with severe narrowing of the arteries. Many studies have shown that long-term complications – especially re-narrowing of the arteries following PCI – may be less common in these stable patients in comparison with those treated after a heart attack.

  • Are statins always used in patients with high cholesterol?

  • Although statins are extremely effective in lowering cholesterol and reducing cardiovascular risk, not all patients may need them. In fact, cholesterol can be effectively lowered in some patients with simple lifestyle changes including exercise and diet.
  • Can I drive myself to the hospital in an emergency situation?

  • After or during a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke, it is important to call 911 and not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital. Ambulances are equipped to provide immediate, life-saving medical care until you arrive at the nearest emergency facility.

  • Can yoga be used in place of traditional treatments for atrial fibrillation?

  • Yoga helped to reduce episodes of irregular heart beat by half, and significantly improved depression, anxiety and quality of life in participants of the “Yoga My Heart Study”. However, yoga is not necessarily an appropriate substitute for other treatments such as surgery or medications. Patients with atrial fibrillation should consult their physician before practicing yoga to ensure that it is the right option for them. 

  • Can I lower my cholesterol without medication?

  • Yes. There are a variety of lifestyle changes that can help lower cholesterol, including exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy and quitting smoking (if a smoker). However, lifestyle changes may not be enough to lower cholesterol for some, especially those with a family history of high cholesterol.
  • Is a statin right for me?

  • A statin should be used when the benefits outweigh the risks. Therefore, the decision should be based in risk assessment.  We know that patients who have had a previous heart attack or stroke are at high risk for another, so these patients should generally be on a statin.  In patients who have not had a heart attack or stroke, but are at increased risk for these conditions, the decision to use a statin requires a careful assessment of risks.  Given that statins have a very low risk of major side effects, for many patients, the risk-benefit equation will be in favor of treatment.  Ways to assess risk include what we call “traditional risk factors,” which include basic clinical factors like age, gender, blood pressure, smoking, and cholesterol.  Occasionally, the imaging of plaque (e.g., coronary artery calcium scan or carotid ultrasound) can be helpful to more accurately determine a patient’s risk. While the best method of determining risk is evolving, physicians in the United States follow guidelines that currently link recommendations to cardiovascular risk assessment by calculation of a person’s 10-year risk of a fatal or nonfatal heart attack.
  • Is it worth the radiation risk to have angioplasty and stenting?

  • In a word, yes. Skilled interventional cardiologists perform coronary procedures only when the benefits outweigh the overall risks, including any risks from radiation exposure. Keep in mind, we’re all exposed to radiation from the atmosphere as we go about our everyday lives. Background radiation comes to about 3 to 4 “milliSieverts” (mSv) a year. By comparison, the radiation dose from cardiology procedures such as cardiac catheterization and angioplasty is about 1 to 10 mSv. Still, it is important to talk with your doctor about plans for minimizing radiation dose as much as possible.

  • Should I stop taking Multaq for non-permanent arrythmia?

  • If you are currently taking Multaq, do not stop taking this drug without consulting with your physician. Any side effects should be reported to the FDA MedWatch Program, and all questions or concerns should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Ask an Expert

Please note that every question submitted will not receive a direct response from a Cardiologist. However, we will follow-up with suggested ways to find appropriate information related to your question. Please do not use your last name or any other confidential information in your question.

Meet our Expert

Your questions are answered by more than two dozen members of the American College of Cardiology who volunteer their time with CardioSmart.

Learn more about our volunteers