How Is Heart Disease Treated?

Your healthcare provider may recommend medications, rehabilitation, surgeries, and lifestyle changes for your treatment plan.

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Heart disease is a broad term for any medical condition that affects the heart and its blood vessels, valves, or arteries. Coronary artery disease (blocked arteries) is the most common type, but other heart conditions include cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), congenital heart disease (birth defect of the heart), heart attack, and heart failure, among others.

Since heart disease encompasses several heart conditions, your treatment options can depend on what condition you have, how severe your condition is, which symptoms you're experiencing, and your overall health. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms, prevent your condition from getting worse, and maintain and improve your quality of life.

Your primary care provider will likely work with a cardiologist (a doctor who specializes in the heart) to create a treatment plan that is right for you. Your healthcare providers or “care team” may use a combination of interventions to treat your condition. Treatment options may include medications, surgeries, rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes.


Your care team can prescribe one or more prescription medications to treat heart disease. Some examples of these medications include:

  • Beta-blockers: Beta-blockers are medications that help reduce the heart’s workload by slowing the heart rate. As a result, your blood pressure may go down and your heart may beat with less force. Medications like Lopressor (metoprolol), Zebeta (bisoprolol), and Tenormin (atenolol) are often first-line treatments for several heart conditions.
  • Calcium channel blockers: Calcium channel blockers are medications that block calcium from moving into the heart. This can help the blood vessels relax and reduce the amount of work the heart has to do to pump blood. Some prescriptions of calcium channel blockers include Norvasc (amlodipine), Cardizem (diltiazem), and Verelan (verapamil).
  • Long-acting nitrates: Long-acting nitrates help to relax the blood vessels and promote blood flow to the heart. This medication is commonly used to treat angina and coronary artery disease (CAD). Monoket (isosorbide mononitrate) is one type of long-acting nitrate prescription.
  • Short-acting nitrates: Short-acting nitrates also help treat angina and CAD. Nitroglycerin sprays and sublingual (below-the-tongue) nitroglycerin (Nitrostat) can help to temporarily open up narrow or blocked heart arteries and reduce chest pain.
  • Antiplatelet therapies: Antiplatelet therapies reduce the likelihood a blood clot will cause a stroke or heart attack. Prescriptions include Bayer (aspirin) and Plavix (clopidogrel). 
  • Statins: Statin medications lower your cholesterol levels. Excess cholesterol can build up in your blood vessels and break off as plaque, which can cause a heart attack. Statin prescriptions include Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Crestor (rosuvastatin).
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: ACE inhibitors can improve blood pressure control and are beneficial for people who can’t take beta blockers or those who experience high blood pressure while taking beta blockers. They can also be used in conjunction with beta-blockers. Examples include Lotensin (benazepril), Zestril (lisinopril), and Altace (ramipril).
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs): ARB medications help to open up blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. These prescriptions include Cozaar (losartan), Benicar (olmesartan), and Diovan (valsartan).

Surgeries and Procedures 

Heart disease can cause one or more of your coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply blood to your heart) to become blocked. If your arteries are blocked, then blood can’t easily flow through them. The lack of blood flow can cause a heart attack and other serious heart complications.

While medication can help treat several heart conditions, your care team may recommend a surgical procedure to prevent complications. There are several different procedures for heart disease and your care team may recommend one type of surgery that is safest for your condition and health.

Your care team may choose from one of the following surgical procedures:

  • Angioplasty: Opens up a blocked coronary artery to help improve blood flow and prevent the risk of other blockages or a heart attack 
  • Artificial heart valve surgery: Replaces a damaged heart valve with a healthy valve
  • Atherectomy: Inserts a catheter (a long tube) to remove plaque buildup in your arteries to improve blood flow and reduce the risk of a stroke 
  • Bypass surgery: Uses arteries from other parts of your body and reroutes the blood vessels to create a new path for blood flow to the heart in order to improve the oxygen and blood supply in the heart
  • Catheter ablation: Passes a catheter with an electrode (a small piece of metal that carries power) to the heart to give off a painless electrical signal that can help fix an abnormal heart rhythm
  • Coronary artery stent placement: A small, metal mesh tube placed inside the coronary artery to help keep it open, allowing for better blood flow and helping to prevent the recurrence of the blockage
  • Heart transplant: Removes a damaged heart and replaces it with a new heart—which comes from an organ donation
  • Transmyocardial revascularization: Helps improve blood flow in blocked arteries and reduce chest pain in people with severe heart conditions by drilling holes in the heart’s pumping chambers

If you do not need surgery, but require another type of intervention to help your condition, your care team may assistive devices such as a:

  • Pacemaker: A device placed under your skin that is connected by a wire to your heart. A pacemaker sends an electrical signal to the heart when it recognizes an abnormal heart rhythm.
  • Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD): A device placed in your chest that connects to your heart via wires. An ICD can send electrical signals or shocks to your heart if your heart is beating too slow or too fast.


Cardiac rehabilitation (often shortened to “cardiac rehab”) is a medically supervised program that your care team can recommend if you have experienced a heart attack, heart failure, or a major surgery. A cardiac rehab program may offer the following services:

  • Exercising with a medical professional to learn workouts that can improve heart health
  • Education about managing your heart condition and reducing the risk of heart complications
  • Counseling to help you identify sources of stress and manage stress levels

If you think you can benefit from a rehabilitation program, talk to your healthcare provider to see if you are eligible to participate.

Lifestyle Recommendations 

Aside from medication and procedures, your care team will likely recommend lifestyle changes that can help you reduce symptoms and improve your overall heart health. Some examples of heart-healthy lifestyle choices include:

  • Quitting or limiting alcohol and smoking
  • Having a daily exercise routine of 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity
  • Eating a nutritious diet that includes fruit, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains
  • Managing other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which can worsen heart disease
  • Getting good sleep and taking breaks when needed
  • Taking steps to reduce stress through management techniques such as meditation, journaling, yoga, spending time with loved ones, and doing hobbies that you enjoy
  • Keeping in touch with your care team and making time for routine care visits

A Quick Review

Heart disease is an umbrella term for several heart-related conditions. Because the breadth of heart disease is wide, treatment options will vary depending on the exact condition you have and your overall health.

Your care team will typically include a primary care provider and cardiologist, among other specialists. You and your care team will likely work together to find a treatment plan that is right for you. In most cases, treatment for heart disease will include a combination of medication, lifestyle procedures, rehabilitation, and medical interventions (such as surgery), if needed.

Heart disease is a serious condition—so, if you receive a heart disease diagnosis, it is extremely important to follow your treatment plan, make healthy lifestyle changes, and stay in contact with your care team. These steps can reduce symptoms, improve your condition, and help you live well, despite your diagnosis.

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8 Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Know the difference: Cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and coronary heart disease

  2. UpToDate. Chronic coronary syndrome: Overview of care. 

  3. American Heart Association. Types of heart medications.

  4. American Heart Association. Heart procedures and surgeries.  

  5. American Heart Association. Pacemaker.

  6. American Heart Association. Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).

  7. American Heart Association. What is cardiac rehabilitation?

  8. American Heart Association. Lifestyle changes for heart failure.

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