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Understanding Heart Disease -- Diagnosis and Treatment


Treatment for Coronary Artery Disease

Drug treatments may include daily aspirin, and drugs such as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers. Treatments may also target high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- two major risk factors for coronary disease. In addition, your doctor may recommend surgical treatments such as balloon angioplasty (usually using a metal stent to prop open the vessels) or open heart surgery to bypass blocked heart arteries.

Treatment for Heart Failure

Treatment usually depends on the cause of heart failure, but often includes drugs to help control symptoms, such as diuretics or water pills to flush the body of fluids, beta-blockers to block adrenaline’s action, and ACE inhibitors to help modulate sodium and potassium balance and improve blood pressure levels. Devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators are sometimes implanted to improve the heart's function and/or prevent deadly arrhythmias. In very advanced cases, heart transplantation may be a consideration.


Treatment for Heart Arrhythmias

Treatment depends on the type of arrhythmia you have, but can include drugs to normalize the heart rate, such as beta-blockers, many newer drugs to help convert your rhythm to normal, drugs to prevent blood clots (such as warfarin and dabigatran), and "cardioversion," a treatment that involves sending a strong electrical shock to the heart to convert the heart rhythm back to normal.


Treatment for Heart Valve Disease

In severe cases, patients may require medications to deal with heart failure, or surgery to repair or replace the abnormal valve.

Treatment for Pericardial Disease

Pericarditis often subsides on its own, but it also can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or, in severe cases, corticosteroid hormones. Occasionally, fluid must be drained from the pericardium using a long, thin needle inserted carefully through the chest. If a chronic condition develops, a pericardial window may need to be created surgically to permit this fluid to drain.

In the rare circumstance that pericarditis becomes a chronic condition, surgery may be needed to either create a pathway for the extra fluid to drain internally or remove the pericardial sac altogether.

Treatment for Cardiomyopathy (Heart Muscle Disease)

Treatment for cardiomyopathy will depend upon the underlying cause, but often includes the same measures used for patients with heart failure. The outcome is also dependent upon the underlying cause. In selected cases, heart transplant surgery may be recommended.  

Treatment for Congenital Heart Disease

Some minor conditions can actually clear up on their own, or can be treated easily with medications. Those that are more complex can often be treated surgically, if necessary. Very rarely, the heart problem is so severe that it cannot be corrected.


Dietary Supplements for Heart Disease

Several dietary supplements are being studied to determine if they effectively treat coronary heart disease. They include L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, and garlic. So far, these are not recommended for use in treating or preventing heart disease.

Vitamins E and C have been studied extensively and do not appear to lower the risk of developing heart disease. In general, a person will derive the greatest benefits from vitamins and other micronutrients if they are consumed as part and parcel of whole foods.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on March 26, 2014
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