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Heart Disease Treatments: Understanding Your Options

In the U.S., heart disease and stroke are the first and fifth highest causes of death, respectively. An estimated 45 percent of the U.S. adult population is projected to have some form of cardiovascular disease by 2035, with total annual costs reaching more than $1 trillion, according to the American Heart Association .

A big reason why those costs are so high is that heart disease must often be managed as a chronic condition, over a long period of time. Treatment typically includes some combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and/or surgical options.

Lifestyle Changes for Improved Heart Health

If you are diagnosed with any level of heart disease, lifestyle changes will be a big part of your treatment. Generally, heart-healthy lifestyle changes include:

  • Eating a low-fat and low-sodium diet
  • Exercising moderately at least 30 minutes on most days of the week
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol intake

For some patients, simply following these guidelines will lower their risk factors so significantly that more invasive treatment will not be required. For others, medication and surgery must be considered.

Rx Medications to Treat Heart Disease

If lifestyle changes alone aren't enough, your doctor may prescribe medications to control your heart disease. The type of medication will depend on the type of heart disease.

Statins and ACE inhibitors are two of the most commonly prescribed, and most heavily advertised, drug classes.

Statins are often prescribed to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood, helping to prevent heart attacks and stroke. These drugs do come with some serious side effects, and for that reason, patients should always carefully discuss their treatment options with their doctor.

ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors , are drugs used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. By stopping the body from producing angiotensin, these drugs help the blood vessels to relax and widen, which lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow to the heart, and reduces the heart's workload. These prescription medications are considered to have a relatively low risk of side effects.

Maintenance medications like Statins and ACE inhibitors can increase monthly medical expenses for most heart disease patients. But affording these life-saving prescriptions can be made much simpler with a free Rx Discount Card from FamilyWize .

Patients can compare their drug prices online to find the lowest prescription costs in their area. Then, simply showing their FamilyWize card at the pharmacy counter allows patients to receive a discounted rate on their heart medications.

Cardiac Procedures and Surgeries

Even with lifestyle changes and medication, some heart conditions are so serious that they need more invasive intervention.

  • Surgery – including angioplasty, stents, coronary artery bypass surgery, and heart valve surgery, can remove a blockage or other issue and enable the heart to work more effectively.
  • Pacemaker – a small device that's placed under the skin in your chest via minor surgery, is a tool to help control your heartbeat. People may need a pacemaker for a variety of reasons — mostly due to one of a group of conditions called arrhythmias, in which the heart's rhythm is abnormal.
  • If you or a loved one is facing a heart disease diagnosis, there can be a lot of information to process and treatment paths to consider. In addition to speaking with your doctors, the American Heart Association has some great information online to help patients and their families take care of their health.

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