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Heart disease - prevention and treatment

Cardiovascular diseases is the biggest killer in the UK. Dr Chris Browne looks at its prevention and treatment. 

Reducing the risks will help the prevention of many illnesses. For otherwise healthy people this is particularly true for cardiovascular disease

Prevention

Changes to your lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease:

  • Stopping smoking;
  • Controlling high blood pressure;
  • Reducing your cholesterol level;
  • Being physically active;
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight;
  • Controlling your blood glucose if you have diabetes;
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet;
  • Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol.

Treatment 

There are a number of effective drugs to treat heart conditions and research has made great progress in recent years. If you have been prescribed medication, make sure you know what you are taking, why you are taking it, how to take it and what effects it will have.

There might be several different medications that treat your heart condition, but not all will be right for you. Your doctor will choose the one that is most likely to be effective for your condition and which is most suitable and safe for you.

People respond to drugs differently and if a particular medication doesn't suit you, your doctor will prescribe another.

The same drug may have several different names - each has an 'official name' (the generic name) but it may be prescribed under one or more trade names, or proprietary names - those given to it by its manufacturer.

Occasionally, two drugs are combined in one tablet and will have a single trade name.

What heart medicines do

Most drugs given to treat heart disease change how the heart or circulatory system work. Some control high blood pressure or help lower cholesterol, some treat more than one condition.

Most drugs need to be taken once or twice a day.

Some drugs need to be taken when a symptom occurs, like angina.

It can be dangerous to stop taking your medication without medical advice, so speak to your doctor before you stop taking any medication.

Side effects

Medications used to treat heart conditions are very safe; dangerous side effects are rare. But all drugs have possible side effects, so tell your doctor if you develop any new symptoms.

Your pharmacist can tell you more about your medication, and the information leaflet in your medication's packaging will list all the possible side effects.

Alternative medicines

In this case, 'alternative medicines' are defined as any supplement, remedy or herbal preparation that has not been prescribed by your doctor.

Alternative medicines shouldn't be used as substitutes for conventional drugs because most have not undergone rigorous research trials to establish how safe or effective they are. They can change the way the medicine your doctor has prescribed works, so check with your doctor before taking an alternative medicine.

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