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What Is Angina? Banner

What Is Angina?

Cardiac Patient Care Handbook

Angina is pain or discomfort caused by narrowed blood vessels that give blood and oxygen to your heart. This can be caused by fatty build up called plaque in the blood vessels or by spasm of the blood vessels.

As blood flow to the heart muscle is decreased, the heart is not able to get enough oxygen and the angina symptoms occur. There is no damage to the heart muscle with angina, it is a warning sign to take action: IT IS NOT A HEART ATTACK.


Symptoms of Angina

  • Not the same in everyone
  • Angina can feel like: tightness, pressure, squeezing or aching feeling in the chest or arms, indigestion
  • A sharp burning or cramping pain
  • An ache that begins or spreads to the neck, jaw, throat, shoulder, back or arms on one or both sides
  •  Feeling out of breath, weakness or sweating

Control of Angina

  • If angina occurs with movement, stop and rest
  • If the angina is not relieved, use Nitroglycerin tablets or spray if ordered by the doctor
  • Use one tablet every 3 to 5 minutes, for a total of 3 tablets in a 15 minute time span. If the pain is not relieved, CALL 911 OR YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY NUMBER
  • After symptoms subside, rest at least 30 minutes If you have an increase in the number of times you get angina, even if controlled with the use of Nitroglycerin, notify your doctor. If the type of angina you have changes, report this to your doctor

Learning to Live with Angina

  • Space your activities out over the whole day
  • Alternate a hard task with an easy one
  • Don’t rush
  • Emotions increase the workload of the heart. Avoid people or events that bring on anger
  • Learn good ways to relax and practice it at least once daily
  • Climbing stairs is also very hard and you should limit stair use, or climb one step at a time with pauses between steps
  • Another strain on the heart is eating large heavy meals. Try to eat smaller meals more often
  • Avoid physical activity for ½ hour after eating
  • Avoid caffeine products because they tend to increase the heart rate
  • Avoid extreme heat and cold. Cover your nose and mouth when out in the cold air
  • Many people with heart disease have concerns about sex. This action puts no more work on your heart than walking up 2 flights of stairs. For sex, wait 2 hours after meals or alcoholic drinks and you need to be rested
  • Take medications as prescribed
  • Viagra, a prescription medication for impotence, should not be taken without the consent of your physician
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