There are a number of different medications recommended to people with angina. Some medications may be used to treat a risk factor for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Others may be prescribed to prevent or relieve the symptoms of angina. If you do take medicine, it's important to keep up your heart-healthy lifestyle, because healthy daily habits will keep your dose of heart medicine as low as possible.
Medications that are commonly prescribed for angina treatment include:
- ACE inhibitors
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
- Cholesterol medications.
Nitrates are the most commonly used medicines to treat angina. Fast-acting preparations are taken when angina occurs or is expected to occur. Nitrates relax and widen blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow to the heart while reducing its workload.
You can use nitrates in different forms to:
- Relieve an episode that is occurring by using the medicine when the pain begins
- Prevent an episode from occurring by using the medicine just before pain or discomfort is expected to occur
- Reduce the number of episodes that occur by using the medicine regularly on a long-term basis.
Nitroglycerin is the most commonly used nitrate for angina. Nitroglycerin that dissolves under your tongue or between your cheeks and gum is used to relieve an angina episode. Nitroglycerin in the form of pills and skin patches is used to prevent attacks of angina. These forms of nitroglycerin act too slowly to relieve pain during an angina attack.
If you are taking nitroglycerin for angina, it is important to keep it with you at all times. The bottles are small and can easily be carried in a purse or pocket. Also, be sure to keep the medicine in its original bottle. Get your prescription refilled every 6 months, even if you haven't used up all of the tablets (see Angina and Nitroglycerin for more information).