Helping You Get Back to a Healthier Life
Treatment for cardiovascular disease comes in many forms. Your doctor will guide you through your treatment and care plan, and help you manage any challenges along the way.
Preparing for Treatment
After your diagnostic tests or screenings, your doctor may determine that you need treatment. Regardless of the type of treatment you receive, your doctor will tell you everything you need to know about the treatment, and why it’s recommended.
Educational handouts, three-dimensional models of the heart, images from your tests—all of these tools are used to explain and show you and your family the condition of your heart, how a diagnosis was made, and why treating the problem is so important.
Learn more about common tests and how to prepare for them.
Common Types of Treatments and Procedures
Treatment for heart and vascular conditions varies broadly, depending on the severity of your disease. Some treatments are completely non-invasive, while others may require more invasive procedures or surgery.
Medication is often recommended for people with less severe forms of cardiovascular disease. It could be as simple as adding aspirin to your daily regimen, or your doctor may recommend a medication that treats a specific condition, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arrhythmia, or blood clots.
Procedures and Surgeries
Angioplasty and Stents
Invasive but non-surgical, these procedures open up blocked arteries. Angioplasty opens up your blocked artery by using a special catheter (a long, thin tube) with a balloon tip, which is inflated to stretch on your artery wall and flatten any fatty deposits (known as "plaque"). Then, a small tube, called a stent, is inserted and permanently placed in your artery to keep it open. You’ll be sedated during this procedure.
For people who have an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia, a pacemaker may be recommended. This small device, implanted under the skin below your collarbone during a minor surgical procedure, uses leads (wires) that are guided from the device and into your heart, to send electrical impulses and maintain a normal heart rhythm. You’ll be heavily or completely sedated during this procedure.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)
Similar to a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) constantly monitors your heart rate and rhythm. When your heart starts beating too fast, too slow, or irregularly, an electrical signal is sent down the leads to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. An ICD is recommended for people who have a serious arrhythmia, or who have suffered a cardiac arrest or heart attack and are at risk for cardiac arrest. This is a minor surgical procedure that involves the same implantation process as a pacemaker. You’ll be heavily or completely sedated.
Used to treat some types of arrhythmia, a catheter ablation is a procedure that involves placing a long, thin, flexible tube (called an ablation catheter) into a blood vessel in your arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck. The tube is then guided into your heart through the blood vessel, and a special machine sends energy through the tube to your heart. This energy destroys small areas of heart tissue where abnormal heartbeats may cause an arrhythmia to start.
The most invasive form of cardiovascular disease treatment, heart surgery, or open heart surgery, involves making an incision down the center of your breastbone so the surgeon can access your heart. One type of surgery is a bypass, in which a blood vessel from your chest, arms, or legs is removed or redirected around a blocked artery to restore blood flow to your heart. Heart surgeries are very serious, but common, and require significant recovery time. You’ll be completed sedated for the procedure.
Whether your treatment is invasive or non-invasive, you’ll have regular appointments with your doctor to monitor your progress. If you’ve had surgery or a stent put it, you will likely go through cardiovascular rehabilitation to help you recover. Here, you’ll get coaching on how to eat better, get your energy back up and be more active, and lead an overall healthier lifestyle.