Managing Heart Disease

Cardiovascular (heart) disease is the term for diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels and your heart's ability to work. The most common cause of heart disease is coronary artery disease, or the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart itself. It's the major reason people have heart attacks and is the leading cause of death in the U.S.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with heart disease, it is normal to experience fear or even grief. The good news is that monitoring and managing your cholesterol, making lifestyle changes and taking certain medications have been proven to help manage heart disease.

What can you do to help manage your heart disease?

Patients with heart disease need to take an active role in their health and health care. Find a primary care provider who can work with you and your health care team to help you understand your heart disease and manage it. In addition:

  • Always take medications as prescribed by your doctor. If you are having a problem with a medication, talk to your doctor before making any changes.
  • Work with your provider to make (and keep) a realistic eating and exercise plan. Make healthy lifestyle choices, like drinking in moderation and quitting smoking. Get regular blood pressure checks and cholesterol screenings and know your goals.
  • Keep in touch with your health care team, including your primary care doctor and/or cardiologist, so they can regularly monitor your health. Ask about medications that are right for you and the best way to take them.
  • You can also visit the Community Checkup website to see how providers score on heart disease care.

What can your doctor do to help?

Your doctor should work with you to develop a care plan that includes regular blood pressure checks and blood tests for cholesterol levels. Also, you and your doctor should discuss:

  • Healthy eating and lifestyle choices
  • Medications that are right for you, including ACE inhibitor, beta blockers and statins.
  • Whether a daily aspirin regimen is right for you.
  • If you have been in the hospital for a heart attack, how to prevent future blood clots and lower cholesterol, in addition to other medications.

Working as a team, you and your doctor can manage your heart disease, reduce your risk of complications and help you live a full life.