Ways of treating cardiovascular disease

Coronary heart disease

Drugs and surgery can help to control coronary heart disease.

Statins

Statins are drugs that help to lower cholesterol in the blood. They do this by lowering its production in the liver.

Statins are prescribed for people with heart disease or who have a high risk of developing coronary heart disease. They need to be taken long-term. Cholesterol levels will rise again if a person stops taking them.

Some studies have raised concerns regarding the side-effects of statin use, while others believe they can bring additional positive benefits.

Statins are not suitable for everyone – they should not be prescribed for people with liver disease, or for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Some patients taking statins experience side-effects such as headaches and memory loss. There have been reports of statins being linked with type 2 diabetes and liver damage.

Angioplasty

Coronary arteries that are blocked or have become narrow can be stretched open by a process called angioplasty. An uninflated balloon is inserted via a guidewire into a partially blocked artery and inflated. The inflation of the balloon forces the blood vessel to widen. A stent could be inserted to restore and maintain blood flow.

Diagram illustrating how stents work inside arteries
  1. A catheter is inserted into the patient's coronary artery.
  2. The catheter has a balloon at its end.
  3. It also contains a tube of thin wire mesh called a stent.
  4. When the balloon is inflated, it squashes the plaque and stretches the narrowed artery.
  5. As the balloon is inflated the stent expands which holds the artery open.
  6. Finally the catheter is removed, leaving the stent in place.

Changes in lifestyle

Most people know that a poor diet leads to ill health. It could be high in fat which often leads to obesity, or low in fresh fruit and vegetables which means low in vitamins and minerals. This can lead to deficiency diseases like scurvy. Most people also know that regular exercise is important to maintain good health. The NHS recommends that young people do an hour of exercise every day. Most people also know that taking drugs can lead to ill health. This includes illegal drugs, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Small changes in lifestyle can often have big effects on health.

Evaluating the treatment methods

TreatmentAdvantagesDisadvantages
Statins - a daily medication to control blood cholesterol levelsDrugs reduce blood cholesterol levelsMay cause side-effects
Angioplasty - surgery to insert a small balloon into a blood vessel which is then inflated to remove a blockageImproved blood flow in coronary vessels preventing heart attackSometimes only a temporary measure
Changes to lifestyle - diet and exercise, stopping smoking etcReduces risk of heart disease and reduces blood pressureA high level of willpower is required to maintain the changes