What is stable angina?

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Stable angina

Angina happens when there is not enough blood flow to the heart muscle. This is often a result of narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. Angina symptoms include chest pain or pressure. But you might feel other symptoms like pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or one or both shoulders or arms.

Stable angina means that you can usually predict when your symptoms will happen. You probably know what things cause your angina. For example, you know how much activity usually causes your angina. You also know how to relieve your symptoms. Your symptoms may go away when you rest or take nitroglycerin.

Your pattern of stable angina may continue without much change for years.

What can you do to manage stable angina?

Be aware of your symptoms

Tracking when and why your angina symptoms happen is one way to understand your angina better. It also helps you know what's normal for you.

If you know what's normal for you, it'll be easier to tell if you have a change in symptoms that means it's time to call for help.

Understanding your normal patterns may also help you make some changes that might prevent or reduce symptoms.

To track your symptoms, write down:

  • The day and time of day you notice symptoms.
  • What you were doing when you had them:
    • Exercising or doing a physical activity?
    • Eating a large meal?
    • Spending time outside in very cold weather?
    • Feeling a lot of stress?
    • Something else?
  • How long the symptoms lasted.
  • What you did to help your symptoms.

Work with your doctor

You and your doctor can use your symptoms tracking information to talk about whether you need any changes to your angina treatment. For example, you may decide to use medicine or to change your medicine. Or you may talk about other treatments you could try. Most people who have stable angina can control their symptoms by taking prescribed medicines, including nitroglycerin, when needed.

Balance activity and rest

Staying active and knowing when to rest during activity are also important.

Here are some tips that might help you manage your angina.

  • Ease into your day.
  • Warm up slowly before activity. Talk to your doctor about a level of activity that is safe for you.
  • Give yourself time to rest and digest right after meals.
  • Change the way you eat. Eat smaller meals more often during the day instead of two or three large meals.
  • If an activity causes angina, stop and rest. Be active at a level that does not cause symptoms.

What is stable angina?

Stable angina means that you can usually predict when your symptoms will happen. Symptoms happen when your heart is working harder and needs more oxygen than can be delivered through the narrowed arteries. You probably know what things cause your angina. You also know how to relieve your symptoms.

How does tracking your symptoms help you manage stable angina?

If your doctor tells you that you have stable angina, it means that you're likely to be able to predict when you'll have angina symptoms. Tracking when and why symptoms happen is a great way to understand your angina better. It's also a great way to know what's normal for you. If you know what's normal for you, it'll be easier to tell if you suddenly have symptoms that mean it's time to call for help.

Understanding your normal patterns may also help you make some changes that might reduce symptoms. For example:

  • Maybe you notice that your angina comes on when you try to get out of bed quickly. And so you might give yourself a little more time to move from lying down to standing up.
  • Perhaps you find that you often have angina right after a big meal. And so you might try eating smaller meals. Or you could give yourself more time to rest and digest after meals.
  • Maybe you have symptoms when you do heavy chores, like mowing the lawn or shoveling snow. And so you could try asking a friend or family member to help with those kinds of things.

Managing stable angina: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
  • You have angina symptoms that do not go away with rest or are not getting better within 5 minutes after you take a dose of nitroglycerin.

Call your doctor now if:

  • Your angina symptoms seem worse but still follow your typical pattern. You can predict when symptoms will happen, but they may come on sooner, feel worse, or last longer.
  • You feel dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.