Managing Your Angina
- Your heart muscle needs blood supply for it to work.
- Angina pectoris (or angina) is a temporary condition in which pain or discomfort is experienced in the chest region when some part of the heart muscle does not receive adequate oxygen-rich blood supply.
- It is a sign of a serious medical problem and needs urgent attention.
- The following conditions increase a person's chance of developing angina.
- Angina is usually caused by narrowing (due to fatty deposits or sudden contraction) of the blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart. This reduces the blood supply to the heart muscle.
Sometimes the blood vessel supplying blood to the heart becomes completely blocked by plaque or blood clots. When this occurs, blood flow to that part of the heart stops. Without blood, the cells of the affected heart muscle will become permanently damaged; this is what happens during a heart attack.
The signs of a heart attack are similar to those of angina, with 3 main differences:
- The pain is more severe.
- The pain usually lasts longer than 5 minutes.
- Medication or rest does not relieve the pain.
If not treated, angina could lead to a heart attack.
Your doctor may prescribe one or more medications to relieve the pain as well as decrease the chances of experiencing this pain in the future. Some medications work by increasing blood supply to the heart, e.g. nitroglycerin. Others decrease the heart's requirement for oxygen-rich blood, e.g., metoprolol.
- Stop physical activities/exercise immediately.
- Rest in a well ventilated room.
- Take the medication prescribed by your doctor (e.g., nitroglycerin tablets) for pain relief.
- Call your doctor immediately if:
- You have chest discomfort with lightheadedness or you are sweating a lot or having trouble breathing.
- You have chest discomfort (pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain) that lasts more than 5 minutes.
- Your pain persists despite taking nitroglycerin.
- You have any new or worsening symptoms that are not controlled by your medicines.