The goals of treating angina are to decrease the severity and frequency of angina symptoms and to lower the risk of heart attack and death. Different treatment options may include medications, special procedures, and lifestyle changes. While medications and certain medical procedures can help relieve symptoms, making lifestyle changes can lower a person's risk of heart disease.
Angina Treatment: An Introduction
Angina treatment can include changes to a person's lifestyle, medications, and special procedures. The treatment you and your healthcare provider decide on will likely depend on your overall health, the extent of your angina, and your risk of problems in the future.
The goals of angina treatment are to:
- Decrease how often angina symptoms occur and how severe they are
- Prevent or lower the risk of heart attack and death.
Lifestyle changes and medicine may be the only treatment needed if your symptoms are mild and are not getting worse. However, unstable angina is an emergency condition that requires hospitalization.
Lifestyle Changes as a Treatment for Angina
Everyone with angina needs to make some lifestyle changes as part of their treatment. These changes center around lowering a person's risk factors for heart disease.
The first thing that you need to do as part of a treatment plan is change your living habits to avoid bringing on an episode of angina. Anything that makes the heart work harder can cause angina pain. Some lifestyle changes that are part of a treatment plan for angina can include:
- Slow down or take rest breaks if angina comes on with exertion.
- Avoid large meals and rich foods that leave you feeling stuffed if angina comes on after a heavy meal.
- Try to avoid situations that make you upset or stressed if angina comes on with stress. Learn techniques to handle stress that can't be avoided.
- Be especially careful to avoid combining triggers, such as going out in cold weather right after eating a heavy meal.
- You should also avoid heavy lifting and holding your breath when pulling or lifting, since they make your heart work harder.
You can also make other lifestyle changes as part of your treatment for angina, such as:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet to prevent or lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol (see Diet and Heart Disease, DASH Diet, or Low Cholesterol Diet).
- Quitting smoking, if you smoke (see Smoking and Heart Disease).
- Exercising as directed by your healthcare provider. Certain kinds of exercise can bring on an angina episode. Other gentler forms of physical activity can actually help to improve your heart health. Getting regular physical activity is a vital part of living with angina. Talk with your healthcare provider about a safe program of physical activity for you. Participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program is another good way to establish a safe and healthful exercise regimen.
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese (see Weight and Heart Disease or see BMI Calculator to find your ideal weight).
You should also keep an angina diary. It is important to recognize changes in your angina pattern, including changes in the frequency, length, and severity of episodes. Whenever you notice a change, report it to your healthcare provider right away. To help you keep track of changes, it can help to keep an "angina diary." Using an ordinary notebook, jot down a record of the following:
- The date and time of your discomfort, and how long it lasted
- The trigger or triggers that brought on an episode
- The type and severity of discomfort
- What action you took that relieved your angina.