By far the most effective treatment for heart disease is preventing it with a heart healthy diet and exercise! Everyone has heard this before, and most who read this page will simply gloss over this section as a lost cause for them. However, we URGE YOU strongly to take note that even after you have been diagnosed with heart disease, the road to recovery is paved the same way the road to prevention is! Thousands of web pages are dedicated to heart healthy diets, most of which provide recipes. The American Heart Association is one organization most of you know, so this is a good place to start for material to read. The most important thing to keep in mind is that everything you put into your body affects it in some way, either positively or negatively. Every piece of food must be digested and processed, and some foods are particularly good at clogging up your arteries. Avoid these foods! This will not be easy if you are addicted to greasy food, but your life does depend on making some real changes, so make them!
In combination with a good diet, exercise is obviously important when done properly. Jumping onto a treadmill the day you leave the hospital after a heart attack is a very bad idea, so be sure to speak to your Cardiologist about the proper level of exercise your body can handle. In general, start slow but stay consistent. Develop a daily routine and never compromise with yourself. Your friends and family want you around, but it is up to you to make that happen.
Many of our patients need help to improve their cholesterol, lower their blood pressure, or thin their blood to help prevent advanced heart disease. The pharmaceutical industry has developed countless medications to help us improve our patients’ health and reduce their risk of heart disease and the complications of it. The industry has had a lot of negative media attention, but rest assured that there have been millions of lives saved by this industry over the last few decades. So, be sure to listen to your doctor when he recommends that you take your medications.
When vital arteries become clogged in our body, stents are often used to open them up. In the heart, coronary stents are implanted in the coronary arteries to help improve chest pain and survivability from a heart attack. In the legs, stents are also used to open up major arteries that become clogged or damaged by plaque or the effects of diabetes. Depending on the circumstance, some stents used are coated with a medication, called drug-eluting stents, while others are not and are called bare-metal stents. Your doctor will discuss with you which stent you need and why, as well as which medications you will need to take after your stent is implanted to help prevent it from getting clogged again.
A pacemaker is a small permanent device placed under the skin that is used to treat an abnormal heart rate. The pacemaker monitors the heart's electrical activity and stimulates the heart if it is beating too slowly. Patient’s symptoms often improve after receiving the pacemaker because their heart beats more often which circulates blood more effectively. Most often the pacemaker is implanted in the upper chest near the left shoulder in the hospital or outpatient facility.
Defibrillators (ICDs or Implantagble Cardioverter - Defibrillator)
An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a small device that performs similar function to the device many people have seen called an AED (automated external defibrillator) which are found in many public places such as airports, sports arenas, and government buildings. The main difference between the two devices is that the ICD is implanted under the skin just like a pacemaker, and also can function as a pacemaker if necessary. The ICD detects heart rhythm irregularities that can be life threatening and delivers a shock to the heart to hopefully bring the rhythm back to normal. Patients that are at high risk of these irregularities often have an ICD implanted because it can provide the live-saving shock necessary immediately. These devices are programmed in the office and are often monitored daily from a device that sends the information to our office daily if necessary. Most often the ICD is implanted in the upper chest near the left shoulder in the hospital or outpatient facility.
Needless to say, this list is not all-inclusive. This is just a small sample of everything that can be done to help our patients improve. Some patients with more advanced heart disease need a coronary artery bypass graft, CABG, while others in very rare circumstances may need a heart transplant. Patients with atrial fibrillation can sometimes be helped with a cardioversion, but not always. Each of these procedures are more rare, and should be discussed with your physician in detail so that you can understand them better if this is recommended to you.
Research is constantly ongoing to find better options for our patients, with new medications and new devices. The tools available to our physicians are substantial, but there are many more necessary to help 100% of patients who come into our office with heart disease. We are active participants in this research and are constantly striving to find the best treatment options for our patients, even before FDA approval. If you are interested in these options be sure to speak with your doctor about research to see if you may qualify.