Skip Navigation

  • PRINT  | 

How Is Atherosclerosis Treated?

Treatments for atherosclerosis may include heart-healthy lifestyle changes, medicines, and medical procedures or surgery. The goals of treatment include:

  • Lowering the risk of blood clots forming
  • Preventing atherosclerosis-related diseases
  • Reducing risk factors in an effort to slow or stop the buildup of plaque
  • Relieving symptoms
  • Widening or bypassing plaque-clogged arteries

Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor may recommend heart-healthy lifestyle changes if you have atherosclerosis. Heart-healthy lifestyle changes include heart-healthy eating, aiming for a healthy weight, managing stress, physical activity and quitting smoking.

Medicines

Sometimes lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to control your cholesterol levels. For example, you also may need statin medications to control or lower your cholesterol. By lowering your blood cholesterol level, you can decrease your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Doctors usually prescribe statins for people who have:

  • Coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease, or had a prior stroke
  • Diabetes
  • High LDL cholesterol levels

Doctors may discuss beginning statin treatment with people who have an elevated risk for developing heart disease or having a stroke.
Your doctor also may prescribe other medications to:

  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Lower your blood sugar levels
  • Prevent blood clots, which can lead to heart attack and stroke
  • Prevent inflammation

Take all medicines regularly, as your doctor prescribes. Don’t change the amount of your medicine or skip a dose unless your doctor tells you to. You should still follow a heart healthy lifestyle, even if you take medicines to treat your atherosclerosis.

Medical Procedures and Surgery

If you have severe atherosclerosis, your doctor may recommend a medical procedure or surgery.

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also known as coronary angioplasty, is a procedure that’s used to open blocked or narrowed coronary (heart) arteries. PCI can improve blood flow to the heart and relieve chest pain. Sometimes a small mesh tube called a stent is placed in the artery to keep it open after the procedure.

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a type of surgery. In CABG, arteries or veins from other areas in your body are used to bypass or go around your narrowed coronary arteries. CABG can improve blood flow to your heart, relieve chest pain, and possibly prevent a heart attack.

Bypass grafting also can be used for leg arteries. For this surgery, a healthy blood vessel is used to bypass a narrowed or blocked artery in one of the legs. The healthy blood vessel redirects blood around the blocked artery, improving blood flow to the leg.

Carotid endarterectomy is a type of surgery to remove plaque buildup from the carotid arteries in the neck. This procedure restores blood flow to the brain, which can help prevent a stroke.

Rate This Content:

Featured Video

Updated: June 22, 2016