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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is angina?
Angina is pain, pressure, or tightness that is usually felt in your chest. Chest pain may come on when you are stressed or do physical activities, such as walking or exercising. Angina is caused by decreased blood flow and oxygen to your heart. These are often caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). If left untreated, angina may get worse, increase your risk for a heart attack, or become life-threatening.
What increases my risk for angina?
- Age older than 55 years
- Being a man
- Being a woman who smokes and takes birth control pills, or is in menopause
- Diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol
- A heart problem, such as a coronary artery spasm, heart valve disease, or an enlarged heart
- A history of smoking, being around secondhand smoke, or using cocaine
- Not enough exercise, or being overweight
- A family member diagnosed with heart disease at a young age
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 also have shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, or lightheadedness.
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 healthcare provider may also use blood tests to get information about your overall health.
- A stress test helps healthcare providers see the changes that take place in your heart while it is under stress. Healthcare providers may place stress on your heart with exercise or medicine. Ask your healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider decide how to treat your angina. Sometimes blockages can be treated during a cardiac catheterization.
How is angina treated?
- Antiplatelets , such as aspirin, help prevent blood clots. Take your antiplatelet medicine exactly as directed. These medicines make it more likely for you to bleed or bruise. If you are told to take aspirin, do not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead.
- Blood thinners keep clots from forming in your blood. Clots may cause heart attacks, strokes, or death. This medicine makes it more likely for you to bleed or bruise.
- Other medicines may be given to open the arteries to your heart, slow your heartbeat, or decrease your blood pressure or cholesterol.
- Do not take certain medicines without asking your healthcare provider first. These include NSAIDs, herbal or vitamin supplements, or hormones (estrogen or progestin).
- 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.
Call 911 if:
- You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
- Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
- You may also have any of the following:
- Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
- 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.
When should I seek immediate care?
- Your angina is happening more frequently, lasting longer, or causing worse pain.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You are dizzy or nauseated after you take your medicine.
- You have shortness of breath at rest.
- You have new or worse swelling in your feet or ankles.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers 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.
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