Treatment depends greatly on the type of heart disease you have. Whatever your situation, optimal treatment relies on a combination of efforts that may include medication, medical procedures and lifestyle changes.
Most medical interventions such as cholesterol medication, angioplasty and coronary artery bypass surgery work well regardless of gender, but research has shown they are not always equally applied. Women are less likely to receive preventive medications and are less likely to be referred for invasive procedures such as angiography. This can be explained in part because women are usually diagnosed at a later age and are more likely to have other complicating factors, such as diabetes, but some of these differences also can be chalked up to the persisting lack of knowledge of the specific needs of women.
Aspirin, for example, thins the blood and provides some protection against arterial blockages. For years it was commonly prescribed as a standard preventive treatment for heart disease, a conclusion based on a study of 22,500 men. A more recent study on women found that aspirin provided no benefit to women under the age of 65 in preventing a heart attack, although it was linked to a decreased risk of stroke. On the other hand, some therapies specifically prescribed for women have been found to be ineffective. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was once recommended for women as a protection against heart disease. That conclusion is now the subject of debate and HRT as a preventive therapy for heart disease is no longer recommended.
Lifestyle changes found to be consistently beneficial for promoting healing and preventing a recurrence of heart disease include maintaining a healthy weight, physical activity, improving diet quitting smoking and reducing stress. For lifestyle changes to be effective, patients must be active partners in their own care along with their healthcare providers. Your doctor can connect you to resources to help with all of these measures.
There are excellent resources available to help you make the right lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease. Learn more about treatment options and ask your doctor questions about the right procedure for you.
The Women@Heart Program is a peer support program led by women with heart disease, for women with heart disease that aims to create a caring environment for women to learn from each other. The program will provide women with heart disease, in every community, with access to emotional support, educational support and a caring environment for a better recovery after a cardiac event.
If you’ve already had a heart attack or been given a diagnosis of heart disease, cardiac rehabilitation can help you recover and stay healthy. Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) is a program of education, counseling and exercise supervised by a medical team. It can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease, decrease pain and reduce the need for medication. Cardiac rehab can also give you the tools and strategies to improve your overall health and reduce your risk factors for heart disease.