Thursday, May 14, 2009

Med Info Angina

What Is it?
Angina is a temporary pain or tightness that may start in the chest and will sometimes spread to other parts of your upper body. It may start suddenly and may last only a few minutes. Angina will usually occur when there are extra demands placed on the heart, such as during exercise, exposure to extreme hot or cold conditions, windy weather, or during periods of emotional stress. Some people may develop angina at rest or after eating large meals when blood flow must increase to aid in the digestion of foods.
What Are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of angina may vary from person to person. The symptoms may even vary with each episode. They can include a tightness, pressure, aching, or burning behind the breastbone. This sensation may spread or radiate to the arms, neck, jaw, back, or between the shoulder blades.
Other symptoms may include nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, or weakness.
What Causes It?
Angina is caused by a shortage of oxygen and other nutrients reaching the heart muscle. The pain of angina is produced when the heart muscle is starved for oxygen, a condition called ischemia.
Angina occurs most often when the coronary arteries of your heart become narrowed or clogged with deposits of fatty plaque-like substances. This disease is called atherosclerosis.
What Should You Do if You Experience Angina?
If you think you are having angina, you should follow these steps:
   1. STOP what you are doing. SIT DOWN AND REST.
   2. If the symptoms are not gone in 2 to 3 minutes, place a nitroglycerin tablet under your tongue and let it dissolve. You may feel a slight sense of stinging or burning under your tongue,this means the nitroglycerin is working to help relieve your angina.
   3. Wait 3 to 5 minutes. If your angina is still present, take a second nitroglycerin tablet.
   4. Again, wait 3 to 5 minutes. If the symptoms remain, take a third nitroglycerin tablet.
   5. If your angina has not subsided after the third nitroglycerin tablet or after 15 minutes since you first began experiencing discomfort, call an ambulance or have someone drive you to the nearest emergency room.
Helpful Hints about Nitroglycerin tablets.
The burning sensation described earlier is not always an indication that the tablet is fresh. The best way to know if your tablets are fresh is to replace them approximately every 6 months.
Another helpful hint is to "check mark" the bottle every time you open it. Once you get to six "check marks" replace the bottle.
All formations of nitroglycerin should be kept at room temperature. The sublingual (under your tongue) tablets are especially susceptible to moisture. They should NOT be kept in bathrooms or kitchens because of higher degrees of moisture there.
If carrying nitroglycerin sublingual tablets with you, you may want to check with your pharmacist for devices to aid you in carrying your nitroglycerin bottle (e.g. a metal cylinder on a chain around your neck).
When Should You Contact Your Family Physician?
Call your physician WITHIN 24 HOURS for any of the following:
      This is the first time you have ever experienced angina.
      You experience angina while resting.
      Your angina is occurring more frequently, has changed location, or is more severe than in the past.
      The nitroglycerin tablets do not work as quickly as they have in the past.
      Your angina has awakened you during the night.
      If your angina has reoccurred following a cardiac catheterization, angioplasty, or open heart surgery procedure(s).
What Can You Do to Avoid Angina?
Many people can control their angina by following their medication regimen prescribed by their physician and by making life-style changes that lower the heart's workload and reduce stress. Other things you can do may include:
    * Stop smoking (smoking makes the heart work harder)
    * Lose excess weight
    * Start an exercise program
    * Lower your blood cholesterol levels
    * Avoid eating heavy meals and rest after eating
    * AVOID outside activities on EXTREMELY HOT OR COLD DAYS
    * Reduce your stress.

This information has been designed as a comprehensive and quick reference guide written by our health care reviewers.  The health information written by our authors is intended to be a supplement to the care provided by your physician.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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