Treatment and management of heart diseases and conditions
Find out how heart diseases and blood circulation conditions are treated and how they can be managed.
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If you have a heart-related illness, your health care provider may prescribe medications for:
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- heart disease, such as angina
Take your medication as prescribed. Do not skip or increase a dose, or stop taking your medication without asking your health care provider first. If you already follow healthy habits that prevent heart diseases and conditions, you may need fewer medications.
If you have damaged heart valves, you may need surgery to repair or replace them.
Treatment for a stroke (including mini-stroke) can include:
- medications to prevent blood clots
- lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise
- efforts to lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- surgery to remove artery plaque (a mix of fats, calcium and cholesterol) or blood clots (thickened blood)
When managing any heart disease or blood circulation condition, follow healthy habits. This includes exercise. The amount and kind of physical activity you can do depends on:
- your age
- your general health
- your personal interests
- the medications you are taking
- the severity of your heart disease or heart damage
- how healthy and active you were before your diagnosis
Your health care provider will work with you to determine how to be active within your limits. You will probably need to start slowly and increase your activity to a moderate level. The best kinds of exercise are those that use your whole body, like:
Special rehabilitation programs exist to help people with heart problems get better. The programs can help reduce risk and improve quality of life for patients. Most programs include:
- plans to reduce risk factors
- emotional and social support
- a supervised exercise program
- education about heart conditions
With time, you will be able to resume your day-to-day activities. The Heart and Stroke Foundation offers some tips on how to safely resume your activities.
Many people are nervous about exercising on their own after their diagnosis. Speak with your health care provider about a program suited to your physical condition.
While there are many heart disease and conditions, there are easy ways to manage the more common heart-related issues.
If you have had a stroke, your health care provider may need to prescribe medication to manage:
- blood pressure
- bleeding in the brain
- high or low blood sugar
Managing some of these other issues can reduce the stress on your body so your brain can heal better.
High blood pressure
If you have high blood pressure:
- get your blood pressure checked
- cut down on the salt in your food
- talk to your health care provider about exercise
Follow these steps to monitor blood pressure correctly at home.
- Ask your health care provider or pharmacist to get the right monitor and cuff size for you.
- Rest for 5 minutes before taking your blood pressure.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after drinking coffee or smoking to take your blood pressure. It is best not to smoke at all if you have a heart-related illness.
- Do not wear tight clothing. If you do, pushing up your sleeve to take a measurement will affect your blood pressure.
- Sit with your feet flat on the floor, your back supported and your arm resting at heart-level on a table.
- Take more than a single reading at least 2 minutes apart.
- Take your blood pressure twice a day for 1 week to get an average blood pressure. Then talk to your health care provider about the readings so you can get feedback on what to do next.
To get an accurate reading, do not talk, eat, watch television or play with your phone while taking your blood pressure.
If you have high cholesterol:
- lower the amount of saturated and total fats in your diet
- eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts
- ask your health care provider which lifestyle changes can help you reach healthy cholesterol levels
If you have atrial fibrillation, ask your health care provider to develop a personalized management plan. Options include:
- medications to:
- thin the blood
- control heart rate and rhythm
- a procedure to reduce your heart rate
- controlled electric shocks to the heart
- a procedure to get rid of the area of the heart that causes the electrical problem
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