While coronary artery disease (CAD) is progressive and cannot be cured, there are treatment options that can help slow or stop its progression, reduce symptoms like chest pain, and reduce your risk for blood clot–related events like a heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death.
Surgical and nonsurgical procedures
The following may be performed to restore blood flow in a blocked artery:
- Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) reroutes blood around a completely blocked artery using a blood vessel from another part of your body
- Angioplasty opens a blocked artery by inflating a tiny balloon inside the blockage
- Stent implantation permanently props open a blocked artery with a tiny, wire mesh tube that is placed during an angioplasty
- Atherectomy uses a catheter with a sharp blade to remove plaque from an artery
While the above procedures are often necessary and even lifesaving, they are not a permanent solution to your CAD, which is why it’s important to keep taking any medicines your healthcare professional has prescribed.
Prescription and nonprescription antiplatelet blood thinners
These may be prescribed to help prevent blood clots that can cause a life-threatening heart attack or stroke. An antiplatelet is one type of blood thinner that works by helping to keep platelets (which are pieces of blood cells) from sticking together. Examples include:
- Clopidogrel (Plavix®)
- Prasugrel (Effient®)
- Ticagrelor (Brilinta®)
- Dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT): aspirin plus one other antiplatelet medicine, such as clopidogrel, prasugrel, or ticagrelor, is typically prescribed temporarily to help prevent blood clots after stent implantation or coronary artery bypass graft surgery, or after a heart attack
Prescription anticoagulant blood thinners
Anticoagulant blood thinners like XARELTO® are another type of blood thinner that works by slowing down the blood’s clotting process. XARELTO® can be added to aspirin to help further reduce the risk for heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death.
Other prescription medicines
These may be prescribed to address other health conditions or risk factors that contribute to the progression of your CAD. Examples include:
- Medication to help lower your blood pressure
- Medication to help lower your cholesterol
- Medication to control blood sugar in people with diabetes
Unfortunately, no medicine or procedure can completely rid your arteries of plaque, and the underlying risk of blood clots in people with CAD can cause a life-threatening heart attack or stroke. However, it is possible to slow the progression of your CAD by managing your overall health. In addition to taking any other medicines your doctor has prescribed, like medicines for high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it’s also important to quit smoking, maintain a heart-healthy diet, and stay active. If you're just starting out or simply want to recommit to healthy habits, these tips for healthy living may help.