February is American Heart Month, a month to be aware of and learn more about the number 1 leading causing of death for both men and women. In total, heart disease is the number one life-taker in the United States and is responsible for 1 out of every 4 American deaths each year. The most common type of heart disease is called coronary artery disease or CAD. To clarify the definition of CAD, this disease goes by several other names including ischemic heart disease, coronary heart disease, and atherosclerotic heart disease. CAD is characterized by a build-up of plaque along the inner walls of the heart arteries. This build-up causes the arteries to narrow, resulting in less blood flow to the heart. CAD can express itself through a variety of symptoms and events including angina, heart attack, edema and heart failure.
A build-up of plaque and hardening of the arteries can be caused by multiple factors including high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and genetics. There is no one simple solution for treating CAD, but it can be combatted on several fronts. Often treating one condition of heart disease will result in the improvement of another, especially if the improvement comes as a result of making lifestyle changes.
Unlike heart medications, permanent lifestyle changes can actually cure the root cause of your heart disease. This is why it’s critical to implement lifestyle changes along with starting heart medication. First of all, stop smoking if you haven’t already. According to the American Heart Association, smoking cigarettes more than doubles your chances of getting CAD. Limit or eliminate your alcohol intake. Women should not have more than one drink a day and men should not have more than two – never mind if it’s red wine or not. Alcohol raises blood pressure and can lead to high levels of triglycerides. Next, switch to a heart-healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and a good balance of soluble and insoluble fiber. Women need around 25 grams of fiber per day while men require between 30 and 38 grams. Also, decrease your sodium intake. 98% of Americans consume too much salt. Sodium raises the blood pressure by causing the body to retain fluids which makes the heart work harder. Increasing your potassium intake can help to counteract the negative effects of sodium. However, potassium can interfere with some medications. Discuss this with your doctor. Last but not least, work some exercise into your routine. Choose an activity that you enjoy, and try to do it at least 3-4 times a week.
Heart Conditions & Medications
For people with existing heart conditions or those who have a genetic predisposition to develop heart disease, heart medications are effective treatment options for managing heart conditions and disease. Review some of the most prevalent heart conditions below and learn more about the related medications used for treatment.
High Blood Pressure & Edema
High blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. About 1 in every 3 American adults has high blood pressure (hypertension) which is defined as having 140 or higher systolic and 90 or higher diastolic blood pressure readings. For management, there are several types of blood pressure medications. These medications are classified by the way they work in the body, and the best one for you depends on your age, ethnic background, and other conditions. Your doctor will either prescribe a diuretic, an ACE inhibitor, angiotensin blocker, beta blocker, calcium channel blocker, a renin inhibitor, or a combination of the above. The first-choice medication in most cases is a diuretic. Diuretics cause the body to eliminate excess fluid and sodium. This alleviates strain on the heart and reduces blood pressure. Diuretics also stop edema or fluid retention caused by heart disease. Low-cost generic diuretics such as chlorthalidone and hydrochlorothiazide are sufficient. If these don’t work for you, your doctor will probably recommend an ACE inhibitor.
Angina pectoris is simply chest pain. The main cause of angina is coronary artery disease. Calcium channel blockers and beta blockers help to reduce angina as well as lower blood pressure. The top two low-cost beta blockers recommended by Consumer Reports are metoprolol and atenolol. These cardiac medications selectively block beta receptors in the heart muscles. This makes the heart less responsive to stress hormones leading to a decrease in blood pressure, a more stable heart rate, and reduced angina.
High cholesterol affects about 71 million American adults today. However, less than half of adults with high cholesterol get treatment for it. Cholesterol levels can be controlled with statins. Statins work by inhibiting an enzyme produced in the liver that is used to manufacture cholesterol. Around 70% of the body’s cholesterol is produced in this way. When this production is blocked in the liver, cholesterol blood levels will fall. Two low-cost generic statins and cholesterol medications that are recommended for those that already have heart disease are simvastatin and atorvastatin (generic Lipitor).
This covers some of the major conditions, treatment options and prevention options for heart disease. During American Heart Month, take some time to evaluate your heart health with your doctor - doing so could reduce your risk of heart disease. For more information about heart health and for free coupons & discounts for related drugs, visit our Heart Health conditions page.