Coronary artery disease is a chronic disease with no cure. When you have coronary artery disease, it is important to take good care of your heart for the rest of your life. This is especially true if you have had an interventional procedure or surgery to improve blood flow to the heart. Procedures do not cure coronary artery disease. It is up to you to take steps to stop the disease from progressing.
Here are some steps you can take to make living with heart disease easier:
Atherosclerosis takes place over a lifetime. Complications from atherosclerosis tend to happen later in life. But the process of narrowing and hardening of the arteries starts early, progressing over decades.
Developing some atherosclerosis is often unavoidable. It's the result of aging and our own genetic tendencies. A much larger part, though, is determined by our behavior and lifestyle choices as we move through life.
How old are your arteries? Are they the ones you had in college? Or are...
Recognize the symptoms. Call your doctor if symptoms become more frequent or severe. Call for emergency assistance if rest and/or medications do not relieve symptoms after 15 minutes. DO NOT WAIT TO GET HELP!
Reduce your risk factors. The more risk factors you have, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, the greater your risk for future heart problems. Work with your doctor to treat these risk factors and reduce your risk.
Take your medications. Your medications are used to control your symptoms and help your heart work more efficiently. Follow your doctor's instructions when you take your drugs.
See your doctor for regular check-ups. Schedule regular appointments with your primary doctor and/or your heart doctor (even if you have no symptoms). Your appointments may be spaced once a year or more often if your doctor feels you need to be followed more closely.
How Can I Reduce My Heart Disease Risk Factors?
If you have heart disease, making the necessary lifestyle changes is not easy. It takes dedication and discipline to quit smoking, eat right, and master techniques to ease stress. The following tips may help get you started. But, it's a good idea to seek help from dieticians, doctors, and support groups to keep you on track.
Regardless of the lifestyle change you are trying to make:
Have a plan before starting.
Create realistic goals for yourself.
Master one change at a time (for example, quit smoking before changing your diet).
Write a formal or informal contract to strengthen your commitment to make the necessary lifestyle changes.
Prepare for lapses and relapses. Don't be too hard on yourself when this happens.
Be sure to reward yourself when you do well (this doesn't mean treating yourself to a hamburger and fries).
Make sure you have plenty of support from your friends and family. Seek the help of support groups. Also, talk to your doctor about participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program.