Heart Disease Treatment and Prevention
Surgical options can also treat heart disease. Coronary angioplasty is performed over one million times each year on patients in the United States, according to the NIH. In this procedure, a balloon is threaded into the affected blood vessel and inflated, pushing the plaque blocking the artery to the sides of the vessel. Sometimes, this procedure is accompanied by placement of a stent– a mesh tube designed to hold the blood vessel open.
Despite all that is known about it, heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, according to the CDC, claiming over 630,000 lives in 2006– more than a quarter of all deaths.
In addition to lifestyle changes, some treatments are available to help avoid heart disease. Many of these medications are designed to lower cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol. The first, LDL, is called “bad cholesterol” because it is the type that can build up and block blood vessels. The other, HDL, is called “good cholesterol” because it is responsible for transporting LDL to the liver, ultimately removing it from the blood stream.
Optimally, HDL cholesterol levels should be above 40 (measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood) and LDL cholesterol should be below 100, according to the CDC.
The FDA has approved a number of drugs for improving cholesterol levels. Perhaps the best-known are statins. They slow cholesterol production by the liver and speed up how fast it removed LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Another class of drug to lower cholesterol is called bile acid sequestrants. These drugs remove bile acids from the body. Because the body produces these acids from LDL cholesterol, more LDL cholesterol will be broken down to replace them.
Niacin and fibrates are other drug classes for improving cholesterol levels. Both increase HDL cholesterol, and niacin lowers LDL cholesterol.