According to the July issue of the Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource, one in nine women aged forty five to sixty four has some type of heart disease. By age 65, that number climbs to 1 in 3.

Many of these women will be treated with angioplasty, one of the most common non-surgical approaches to heart disease treatment available today.

Nearly 1 million angioplasties are performed each year and are becoming more common, according to the American Heart Association. They’re performed by interventional cardiologists and involve inserting a small catheter into an artery in the groin or arm and guiding it to the blocked artery. A little balloon on the catheter is then inflated, flattening obstructive, built-up plaque against the artery wall. It also is common for the physician to insert a stent, a tiny mesh coil that stays in the artery and props it open to prevent reclosure.

Prior to angioplasty, the only treatment for blocked arteries was bypass surgery — a major surgical procedure. Angioplasty is performed under light sedation, and the patient typically goes home the same day.

The risks of angioplasty are small, but real nevertheless. There is less than a 5 percent chance of heart attack or emergency bypass surgery, and the risk of fatal complications is less than 2 percent.

Other, less common ways of treating arterial blockages without surgery include directional atherectomy and rotational atherectomy, in which small instruments cut out, or pulverize, blockages. Lasers can also be used to destroy plaque buildup.

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