Heart Disease Care: See Your Doctor Regularly
Managing your risk factors can help you live better with a heart condition.
If you have coronary heart disease, it’s important to work closely with your doctor to make sure you’re doing all you can to protect your heart.
Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. The major risk factors are unhealthy blood cholesterol levels, diabetes, high blood pressure, being overweight or obese and smoking.
Your doctor will work with you to evaluate your risks and try to get, and keep, your risk factors under control. Some common tests that help evaluate risk for coronary heart disease are blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Your doctor can advise you on healthy habits that help manage risk factors and help keep heart disease from getting worse:
- Adopting a heart-friendly diet. A healthy eating plan can help you control your cholesterol and blood pressure. It includes limiting saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol, limiting sugar intake and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and peas, and low-fat dairy products as part of a balanced diet. Eating a variety of seafood as a protein source twice a week is also recommended. Your doctor or a dietitian can help you meet these goals.
- Exercising regularly. Physical activity can help lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. But talk to your doctor before you start or change your exercise program. This way, you'll know you're doing what is safe and right for you.
- Shedding excess pounds. Eating right and exercising can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Quitting smoking. If you smoke or use tobacco in any form, it’s vital that you quit. Ask your doctor about medicines and programs that may help. Avoid being around other people's tobacco smoke.
- Managing stress. High emotions, like anger, can take its toll on you over time. Discuss ways to cope with stress and anxiety, and let your doctor know right away if you think you may be depressed.
- Getting an annual flu shot. With heart disease, you’re at increased risk of complications of the flu.
You may need medicines to help treat your condition and reduce your risk factors. If recommended, be sure to take your medicines as prescribed. Ask whether you might benefit from a daily aspirin.
Surgery or procedures
If lifestyle and/or medication therapies are not effective in treating your heart disease, your doctor may discuss further evaluation or additional treatment such as a procedure to unblock the affected arteries or bypass surgery.
Keep in touch
If you have questions about your condition, talk with your doctor. Be sure to know when to call for advice or when you may need to seek emergency care right away.
By Ginny Greene, Contributing Editor
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. How is coronary heart disease treated? Accessed: October 16, 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease. Accessed: October 15, 2015.
Smith SC Jr, Benjamin EJ, Bonow RO, et al. AHA/ACCF secondary prevention and risk reduction therapy for patients with coronary and other atherosclerotic vascular disease: 2011 update: A guideline from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Foundation.Circulation. 2011;124:2458–2473. Accessed: October 16, 2015.
Last Updated: October 16, 2015