Innovations in cardiovascular care are constantly creating effective, less invasive methods for treating and preventing cardiovascular disease. The days when little could be done to combat heart and vascular disease are long over. Whether you have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or wish to minimize risk factors you may have, your doctors and other healthcare providers can work with you to identify the best choices for you among a range of treatment and prevention options.
Let’s take a closer look at what treatment and prevention mean for cardiovascular patients today. First, it can be helpful to remember that there are two kinds of prevention:
- Primary prevention, where the goal is to stop or slow cardiovascular disease before an event such as a heart attack or stroke; and
- Secondary prevention, where the goal is to prevent a repeat event in a patient who has already had a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular problem.
The Spectrum of Care
Treatment and prevention are both part of what is called the spectrum of care. What this means is that the severity of your condition determines which treatment or prevention options will be most effective for you. For cardiovascular disease, the spectrum of care consists of three levels:
- Lifestyle changes
- Revascularization, or treatment to re-establish blood flow through a narrowed artery. Options for revascularization include:
You can think of these treatment options as building on one another. For example, if you have only risk factors for cardiovascular disease, your healthcare providers may recommend managing them through lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. If you have risk factors and early signs of cardiovascular disease, you may need a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. If you have already had a heart attack or stroke, you might need a revascularization procedure, followed by ongoing medication and lifestyle changes.
Your doctor and other healthcare providers will work with you to determine where you fall within this spectrum of care. To develop a treatment plan for you, your doctors will rely on their education, training, and experience as well as practice guidelines. These guidelines are developed, and frequently updated, by the most experienced cardiologists and cardiovascular and surgical societies in the world. Guidelines are drafted after careful review of all the peer-reviewed information and data available.
Interventional cardiologists use the guidelines jointly developed by the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, and the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions as well as guidelines developed by the European Society of Cardiology.
Delivering the best cardiovascular care for each individual patient requires your healthcare team to apply both science and art — combining research-based guidelines with experience in treating patients, each with unique circumstances. The goal is always to deliver the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. You can help the healthcare professionals by being informed, asking questions, and answering their questions as fully as possible.