What is Angina?
Angina (AN-Jih-nah or an-JY-nah) is chest pains or discomfort that occurs when your heart doesn’t get as much blood and oxygen as it needs. Over time, the coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart can become clogged from a build up of the cells, fats and cholesterol. This buildup is called plaque.
If one or more arteries are partly clogged, not enough blood can flow through, and you can feel chest pain or discomfort.
Angina is common. Over 3 million people in the United States have these chest pains. And while angina may not cause long-term heart damage, it is a sign of heart disease.
What does angina feel like?
Angina chest pains usually last for just a few minutes. Here is how people say it feels:
- Chest feels tight or heavy
- Hard to breathe
- Pressure, squeezing or burning chest
- Discomfort may spread to arm, neck, jaw or back
- Numbness or tingling in shoulders, arms or writs
When could I get angina?
You may get angina chest pains when you:
- Climb stairs
- Carry groceries
- Feel angry or upset
- Have sex
- Have emotional stress
- Combination of any of these
What tests might I have?
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
- Treadmill exercise test
- Cardiac catheterization (Kath-eh-ter-ih-ZAY-shun), which shows where the artery is blocked
Medicines for Angina
Nitroglycerin (NTG) is medicine used to improve blood flow to the heart. There are two different forms of NTG. Fast-acting NTG acts very quickly and long-acting NTG lasts for a longer period of time.
Fast-acting NTG comes in two forms: a tablet you put under your tongue or a spray for your mouth. Most people with angina should keep fast-acting NTG with them all of the time. Fast-acting NTG quickly stops angina by causing blood vessels to relax and open up so more oxygen-rich blood flows to the heart.
When you begin to feel angina: 1) Stop what you are doing and rest. If your angina does not quickly go away with rest, put one NTG tablet under your tongue or spray NTG into your mouth. 2) Continue to rest until your angina chest pains go away. 3) If your angina does not go away after 5 minutes, Call 9111; you may be having a heart attack.
Long-acting NTG provides a small amount of NTG into your bloodstream all day. Many people take long-acting NTG so they have less angina during the day. Long-acting NTG comes in pills and patches.
You can take fast-acting NTG for angina chest pains even if you take long-acting NTG.
- Keep NTG in the bottle it came in
- Always have a fresh supply of NTG
- If your bottle of NTG has cotton, throw the cotton away
- Do not mix NTG in pill containers with your other medicines
- Keep NTG at room temperature; don’t let it get too hot or too cold
- Keep NTG with you at all times
- Get a new bottle of NTG every 6 months
For more information about the heart services available through the Firelands Heart Center, contact us today.