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Angina

What is angina?

Angina is pain, pressure, or tightness that is usually felt in your chest. It is caused by decreased blood flow and oxygen to your heart. If left untreated, angina may get worse, increase your risk of a heart attack, or become life-threatening.


What increases my risk for angina?

  • You are older than 55 years.

  • You are a man.

  • You are a woman who smokes and takes birth control pills, or you are in menopause.

  • You have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

  • You have a heart problem, such as a coronary artery spasm, heart valve disease, or an enlarged heart.

  • You have a history of smoking, being around secondhand smoke, or using cocaine.

  • You get little exercise or are overweight.

What other signs and symptoms may I have with angina?

You may feel pressure, tightness, or pain in your neck, jaw, shoulder, or back. You may have pain or numbness in either arm, or discomfort that feels like heartburn. You may have shortness of breath, sweating, or feel fear or anxiety before or during an angina attack.

How is angina diagnosed?

  • An EKG records your heart rhythm and how fast your heart beats. It is also used to look for problems or damage in different areas of the heart.

  • Blood tests may show if there is damage to your heart. Your caregiver may also use blood tests to get information about your overall health.

  • A stress test helps caregivers see the changes that take place in your heart while it is under stress. Caregivers may place stress on your heart with exercise or medicine. Ask your caregiver for more information about this test.

  • An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to show the structure, movement, and blood vessels of your heart.

  • Cardiac catheterization is a procedure that uses dye and an x-ray to check the blood flow in your coronary arteries. This can help your caregiver decide how to treat your angina. Sometimes blockages can be treated during a cardiac catheterization.

How is angina treated?

  • Medicines:

    • Aspirin may help prevent blood clots by thinning your blood. If you cannot take aspirin, your caregiver can give you a prescription blood thinning medicine instead. Aspirin and other blood thinners may increase your risk of bleeding, including stomach bleeding.

    • Nitrates , such as nitroglycerin, open the arteries to your heart so the heart gets more oxygen.

    • Beta-blockers cause your heart to beat more slowly and decrease blood pressure. This decreases the amount of oxygen the heart needs. Beta-blockers also help open the blood vessels in the heart.

    • Calcium channel blockers help relax the muscles in the arteries of the heart, increasing blood flow to the heart.

    • Statins are used to lower cholesterol levels. This prevents further narrowing of the blood vessels in your heart.

  • Angioplasty and stenting help open the coronary arteries and allow blood to flow to the heart. Ask for more information about these procedures.

  • Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) , or open heart surgery, can improve blood flow to the heart. This will help decrease your chest pain and prevent a heart attack.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • You are dizzy or nauseated after you take your medicine.

  • You have trouble breathing at rest.

  • You have new or worse swelling in your feet or ankles.

  • You are bleeding from your gums or nose.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:

    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns

    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm

    • Trouble breathing

    • Nausea or vomiting

    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing

  • You have chest pain that does not go away after you take medicine as directed.

  • You lose feeling in your face, arms, or legs, or you suddenly feel weak.

  • Your angina is happening more frequently, lasting longer, or causing worse pain.

  • You have blood in your urine or bowel movements, or you vomit blood.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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