A number of medications are used to treat diseases of the heart, or ameliorate symptoms. For diseases of the heart rate or rhythm, a number of different antiarrhythmic agents are used. These may interfere with electrolyte channels and thus the cardiac action potential (such as calcium channel blockers, sodium channel blockers), interfere with stimulation of the heart by the sympathetic nervous system (beta blockers), or interfere with the movement of sodium and potassium across the cell membrane, such as digoxin. Other examples include atropine for slow rhythms, and amiodarone for irr
egular rhythms. Such medications are not the only way of treating diseases of heart rate or rhythm. In the context of a new-onset irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation), immediate electrical cardioversion may be attempted. For a slow heartbeat or heart block, a pacemaker or defibrillator may be inserted. The acuity of onset often affects how a rhythm disturbance is managed, as does whether a rhythm causes hemodynamic instability, such as low blood pressure or symptoms. An instigating cause is investigated for, such as a heart attack, medication, or metabolic problem.
For ischaemic heart disease, treatment also includes amelioration of symptoms. This includes nitroglycerin, beta blockers and, in the context of an acute event, stronger pain relief such as morphine and other opiates. Many of these drugs have additional protective benefits, by decreasing the sympathetic tone on the heart that occurs with the pain, or by dilating blood vessels (GTN).
Treatment of heart disease includes primary and secondary prevention to prevent the occurrence or worsening of symptoms and atherosclerosis. This includes recommendations to cease smoking, decrease alcohol consumption, increase exercise, and make modifications to their diet to decrease the consumption of fats and sugars. Medications may also be given to help better control concurrent diabetes. Statins or other drugs such as fibrates may also be given to decrease a person’s cholesterol levels. Blood pressure medication may also be commenced or modified
For many diseases of the heart, including atrial fibrillation and valvular disease, and after a heart operation, anticoagulation in the form of aspirin, warfarin, clopidogrel or novel oral anticoagulants is often given simultaneously, because of an increased risk of stroke or, in the context of a clotted heart vessel, rethrombosis.
Main articles: Cardiac surgery, Coronary artery bypass surgery, and Coronary stent Surgery, when considered necessary for diseases of the heart, can take place via an open operation or via small guidewires inserted via peripheral arteries (“percutaneous coronary intervention”). Percutaneous coronary intervention is usually used in the context of an acute coronary syndrome, and may be used to insert a stent.
Coronary artery bypass surgery is one such operation. In this operation, one or more arteries surrounding the heart that have become narrowed are bypassed. This is done by taking blood vessels harvested from another part of the body. Commonly harvested veins include the saphenous veins or the internal mammary artery.
Because this operation involves the heart tissue, a machine is used so that blood can bypass the heart during the operation.
Heart valve repair or valve replacement are options for diseases of the heart valves.