When cholesterol and other debris collect in the walls of your arteries, they harden, reducing blood flow to the heart. When this series of events occurs in the coronary artery, doctors call the plaque accumulation coronary atherosclerosis, or coronary artery disease. Atherosclerosis can become a serious condition: the heart may weaken because of a lack of oxygen, and the cholesterol buildup can rupture, damaging the walls of the artery.
However, treatment options can vary and it's important to find a doctor who understands how to treat atherosclerosis at the root of the problem. Surgical treatment does not permanently solve a patient’s cardiac problems, even if the surgery is completely successful says Michael Cleman, MD, director of the Interventional Cardiology Program at Yale Medicine. Dr. Cleman says he always refers patients for cardiac rehabilitation.
“It gets you in with a supervised exercise program,” he says. “The majority of people weren’t exercising before the condition.” At rehab, he says, they go over diet and weight loss techniques. “It’s motivating for people,” he says, “and just as important, you’re with other people who have a similar problem so you’re not isolated."