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Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) is a medical issue caused by the buildup of cholesterol, fat, and other substances (called plaque) in and on the walls of your arteries. Plaque narrows the arteries, which hinders blood flow. Blood clots can also form when plaque bursts. 

When you live with ASCVD, you’ll need to understand the causes, what may make it worse, and how to avoid further complications. Usually, health care providers suggest maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

Here’s a detailed look at the different members of the ASCVD health care team and the parts they play in treating the disease.

Primary Care Doctor

What’s a primary care doctor? 

A primary care doctor, also known as a general practitioner or general doctor, will probably be the first member of the health care team you visit. They treat minor and serious medical conditions and may refer you to other doctors for specialized treatment. 

How do primary care doctors treat ASCVD?

Usually, your doctor will suggest a change in lifestyle. This includes eating more nutritious foods and exercising more. 

The doctor may supplement these changes with medicine to help bring down your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Here’s a look at some of the medications you could take:

  • Statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Aspirin
  • Blood pressure drugs

In cases of advanced ASCVD, they could suggest surgery to open blocked arteries. 


What’s a cardiologist?

These are doctors with expert knowledge of the heart and blood vessel issues. They focus on treating heart diseases and keeping your heart healthy.

How do cardiologists treat ASCVD?

Like other doctors, a cardiologist will examine you and ask about your symptoms, and medical and family history. They also order tests to learn more about your condition and will make treatment suggestions like medicine, exercise, and more nutritious foods.

Cardiologists diagnose and treat coronary artery disease through tests called cardiac catheterization.

In this procedure, the doctor will insert thin tubes called catheters into your artery to help spot narrowed or blocked arteries and find out the degree of damage before they clear the blockage.

A cardiologist may also perform a coronary angioplasty. This procedure puts a balloon catheter into narrowed or blocked arteries of your heart to boost blood flow. They could also place a stent in the artery to keep it open after surgery. 

Cardiac Surgeon 

What’s a cardiac surgeon?

This member of your health care team performs surgery on the heart and all key blood vessels near the heart. 

How does a cardiac surgeon treatASCVD?

If medicine or lifestyle changes don’t work to treat a heart condition related to ASCVD, you may need surgery. Your surgeon may perform coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). During this procedure, they’ll redirect veins or arteries around narrowed coronary arteries from different parts of your body. This helps to enhance blood flow to your heart and avoid a heart attack.

Vascular Specialist

What’s a vascular specialist?

These health care providers are experts in issues and treatments related to your veins and arteries. There are different types of vascular specialists, including:

  • Vascular surgeons
  • Endovascular surgeons
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD) specialists
  • Vein specialists

How do vascular specialists treat ASCVD?

ASCVD can cause a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is when the arteries in your arms and legs narrow so that blood doesn’t flow as well. This can make you less able to feel heat and cold, so you could be more likely to get burns or cold injuries like frostnip or frostbite. 

To treat PAD, your vascular specialist may suggest lifestyle changes like a balanced diet, quitting smoking, and exercising. If necessary, they could also prescribe medicine to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Vascular specialists also treat other health problems related to ASCVD, such as:

  • Carotid artery disease. This condition happens when ASCVD narrows the arteries near your brain. This can cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke. To remove plaque buildup and return blood flow to the brain, your doctor may suggest a type of surgery called carotid endarterectomy.
  • Aneurysm. This bulge forms in the wall of a blood vessel, which can burst and cause dangerous internal bleeding. 


What’s a neurologist?

Neurologists diagnose and treat illnesses that affect your nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves).

How does a neurologist treat ASCVD? 

If carotid artery disease causes a stroke, it’s possible you’ll need to visit a neurologist to help manage your care and recovery.


What’s a nephrologist?

A nephrologist is a health care provider with a deep understanding of the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses of the kidneys.

How does a nephrologist treat ASCVD? 

If ASCVD narrows the arteries that lead to the kidneys, you may need the help of a nephrologist. Proper blood flow to the kidneys helps these organs filter out waste products and get rid of extra fluids. When this doesn’t happen, you can get chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Many times, there’s no cure for CKD. Instead, treatment focuses on managing your symptoms, warding off further health problems, and slowing the illness. This could involve medication or changes to your diet. 

If you have end-stage kidney disease, you’ll need dialysis (artificial removal of waste products and extra fluid from your blood) or a kidney transplant.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: PeopleImages / Getty Images


Mayo Clinic: “Arteriosclerosis / atherosclerosis,” “Chronic kidney disease.”

National Health Service (U.K.): “General practitioner.” “Atherosclerosis.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Cardiologist,” “Vascular Doctor,” “Peripheral Artery Disease,” “Nephrologist,” “Cardiac Surgeon.”

Stanford Medicine: “Obstructive Coronary Artery Disease.”

UCSF: “Atherosclerosis.”

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: “Coronary Artery Disease, Acute Myocardial Infarction, and Ischemic Stroke Rates.”