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Living With Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease (CHD) can cause serious complications. However, if you follow your doctor's advice and adopt healthy lifestyle habits, you can prevent or reduce the risk of:

  • Dying suddenly from heart problems
  • Having a heart attack and damaging your heart muscle
  • Damaging your heart because of reduced oxygen supply
  • Having arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)

Ongoing Care

Lifestyle changes and medicines can help control CHD. Lifestyle changes include following a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and managing stress.

For more information about lifestyle changes and medicines, go to "How Is Coronary Heart Disease Treated?"

Work closely with your doctor to control your blood pressure and manage your blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

A blood test called a lipoprotein panel will measure your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A fasting blood glucose test will check your blood sugar level and show whether you're at risk for or have diabetes.

These tests show whether your risk factors are controlled, or whether your doctor needs to adjust your treatment for better results.

Talk with your doctor about how often you should schedule office visits or blood tests. Between those visits, call your doctor if you have any new symptoms or if your symptoms worsen.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

CHD raises your risk for a heart attack. Learn the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, and call 9–1–1 if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. This involves uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center or left side of the chest that can be mild or strong. This pain or discomfort often lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, which may occur with or before chest discomfort.
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting, light-headedness or fainting, or breaking out in a cold sweat.

Symptoms also may include sleep problems, fatigue (tiredness), and lack of energy.

The symptoms of angina can be similar to the symptoms of a heart attack. Angina pain usually lasts for only a few minutes and goes away with rest.

Chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t go away or changes from its usual pattern (for example, occurs more often or while you’re resting) can be a sign of a heart attack. If you don’t know whether your chest pain is angina or a heart attack, call 9–1–1.

Let the people you see regularly know you're at risk for a heart attack. They can seek emergency care for you if you suddenly faint, collapse, or have other severe symptoms.

Emotional Issues and Support

Living with CHD may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. You may worry about heart problems or making lifestyle changes that are necessary for your health.

Talk about how you feel with your health care team. Talking to a professional counselor also can help. If you’re very depressed, your doctor may recommend medicines or other treatments that can improve your quality of life.

Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to living with CHD. You can see how other people who have the same symptoms have coped with them. Talk with your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.

Support from family and friends also can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.

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Updated: June 22, 2016