Coronary Artery Disease Treatment

Coronary heart disease treatments have two goals: increase blood flow to the heart and reduce the strain on the heart. Medications such as beta blockers and calcium channel blockers are used to lower blood pressure and decrease the strain on the heart. Surgical interventions can expand narrow arteries or replace blocked areas with healthy blood vessel grafts.

Medications: Beta Blockers, Calcium Channel Blockers and More

A variety of medications are used to treat CAD. Treatments range from thinning the blood to prevent blood clots from forming on atherosclerotic plaques, to lowering blood pressure to reduce strain on the heart.

High Blood Pressure

CAD medications often lower arterial blood pressure. Reducing blood pressure reduces the strain on the heart. Read on to learn more about lowering blood pressure.

Nitroglycerin: Nitroglycerin dilates blood vessels and is used both to dilate the coronary arteries and to reduce the heart’s workload. Widening the blood vessels allows increased blood flow to the heart muscle. Available in oral tablet or spray form, nitroglycerin offers quick relief from chest pain resulting from angina or heart attack.

Aspirin: A low daily dose of aspirin (less than 162 mg) thins the blood and helps prevent blood clots that may block coronary arteries. Public awareness of the benefits of aspirin for heart disease has lead to many people self-medicate with the drug. However, aspirin should only be used for CAD when advised by a doctor.

Beta blockers: Beta blockers lower the heart’s oxygen requirements by lowering blood pressure, pulse rate and heart muscle contraction strength. The effect of beta blockers is a reduction in strain on the heart. Beta blockers have been a successful treatment for many and can actually enhance survival in some patients following a heart attack.

Calcium channel blockers: Calcium channel blockers also lower blood pressure. They have an additional action of lowering heart muscle metabolism and decreasing coronary artery spasms. Coronary artery spasm can lead to plaque rupture and clot formation, so preventing this is a critical action of this drug.

Cholesterol Medication: In general, high cholesterol levels lead to atherosclerosis and CAD. As atherosclerotic plaques build-up in the artery walls, they can cause reduced blood flow in the affected vessels. If this occurs in the coronary arteries, it will contribute to CAD. The aim of cholesterol medications is to lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, actions which counteract plaque build-up. Follow the link for more information on cholesterol medications and their affect on health.

Surgery: Grafts and Stents

Surgery is reserved for serious cases of CAD. Surgical techniques include enlarging narrowed arteries with stents or using healthy vessel grafts to bypass blocked sections of arteries.

Coronary angioplasty: In angioplasty, a small ‘balloon’ is inserted into the blocked artery through a catheter. The balloon is inflated in an area of blockage, forcing a widening of that area. As the artery widens, blood flow is improved and blood pressure in the coronary artery is lowered. To prevent the enlarged artery from collapsing, a stent may be inserted. A stent is a wire mesh tube that holds the blood vessel open.

Coronary artery bypass grafting: If blood vessels are too blocked to clear with angioplasty, artery bypass grafting is a possibility. In the procedure, a vessel from the leg or chest is grafted into the coronary artery system in a way that circumvents the blocked area. Grafting creates a new route for blood to reach the heart. While effective, grafting is not always permanent. Ten percent of grafts will eventually close, although the process may take up to ten years.