There are several treatment options for coronary artery disease, including lifestyle changes, medications, surgery and/or medical procedures.
Lifestyle changes are the mainstay of therapy. Commit to putting your health first:
- Make healthy food choices to eat more whole plant-based and less processed foods.
- Lose weight if needed.
- Quit smoking or don't start.
- Reduce stress.
- Get enough sleep.
- Limit alcohol intake to one drink a day or less.
- Know your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and find out if you have elevated blood sugar or are at risk for diabetes.
Women often are the ones juggling tasks and taking care of everyone else first. By making these heart-healthy choices every day, you can help protect your heart and help those around you live healthier, too.
In addition to lifestyle changes, you may need:
- Medication. People who have or are at high risk for coronary artery disease are often advised to take one or more medications. Medicine can help the heart work better, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, manage symptoms including
chest pain (angina) and/or prevent blood clots.
- Coronary angioplasty and stenting (also called percutaneous coronary intervention). This procedure opens the narrowed or blocked blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. A stent is a small, metal mesh tube that is expanded
inside a coronary artery to keep it propped open. Angioplasty is a balloon procedure to open blocked arteries. Your doctor will decide which procedure is right for you based on your test results.
- Heart surgery or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). Surgeons will open the chest to place artery or vein grafts that reroute blood flow around the blocked or damaged arteries that supply the heart. This will restore
blood flow to the heart muscle.
- Cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac Rehab is a 12-week program that includes a mix of supervised exercise in addition to nutrition counseling, stress management, help to quit smoking, and education about the disease process, including
how you can better take control of your health and improve outcomes. Studies show that people who complete cardiac rehab have fewer returns to the hospital and better quality of life. Unfortunately, more women opt out of Cardiac Rehab or
do not complete the full program.
Historically, treatments have been based on clinical studies that included mostly men. In fact, less than 25% of participants in heart-related studies have been women. The good news is that as research continues to evolve and include more women of all races and ethnicities, researchers are beginning to find diagnostic approaches and therapies that are better matched to women with coronary artery disease.
Make sure you are getting the best possible treatment. If you have coronary artery disease or have a high likelihood for developing it, take the time to talk with your doctor about whether you are getting the guideline-recommended therapies. Women are less likely to get them. This includes aspirin and referrals to cardiologists, as well as cardiac rehab.