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Living With Heart Disease

If you have coronary heart disease (CHD), you can take steps to control its risk factors and prevent complications. Lifestyle changes and ongoing care can help you manage the disease.

Having CHD raises your risk for a heart attack. Thus, knowing the warning signs of a heart attack is important. If you think you're having a heart attack, call 9–1–1 right away. For more detailed information about heart attack warning signs, go to the section on warning signs below.

Lifestyle Changes

Adopting a heart healthy lifestyle can help you control CHD risk factors. However, making lifestyle changes can be a challenge.

Try to take things one step at a time. Learn about the benefits of lifestyle changes, and make a plan with specific, realistic goals. Reward yourself for your progress.

The good news is that many lifestyle changes help control several CHD risk factors at the same time. For example, physical activity lowers your blood pressure and LDL cholesterol level, helps control diabetes and prediabetes, reduces stress, and helps control your weight.

For more information about adopting a heart healthy lifestyle, go to the section of this article titled "How Is Heart Disease Treated?" You also can visit the Health Topics Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors article for more information.

Ongoing Care

Your CHD risk factors can change over time, so having ongoing care is important. Your doctor will track your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels with routine tests. These tests will show whether your doctor needs to adjust your treatment.

Ask your doctor how often you should schedule followup visits and blood tests. Between visits, call your doctor if you have any new symptoms or if your symptoms worsen.

You may feel depressed or anxious if you've been diagnosed with CHD. You may worry about heart problems or making lifestyle changes.

Your doctor may recommend medicine, professional counseling, or relaxation therapy if you have depression or anxiety. It's important to treat these conditions because they raise your risk for CHD and heart attack. Depression and anxiety also can make it harder for you to make lifestyle changes.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

If you have CHD, learn the warning signs of a heart attack. Heart attack signs and symptoms include:

  • 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.
  • Sleep problems, fatigue (tiredness), and lack of energy.

If you think you're having a heart attack, call 9–1–1 at once. Early treatment can prevent or limit damage to your heart muscle.

If you think you're having a heart attack, do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.

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

Living With Broken Heart Syndrome

Most people who have broken heart syndrome make a full recovery within weeks. The risk is low for a repeat episode of this disorder.

To check your heart health, your doctor may recommend echocardiography about a month after you're diagnosed with the syndrome. Talk with your doctor about how often you should schedule followup visits.

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Updated: April 21, 2014