Living with heart disease and angina

Heart Disease and Angina

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood andoxygen to the heart.

Angina is chest pain or discomfort that most often occurs when you do certain activities or feel stressed. Angina is caused by poor blood flow through the blood vessels of the heart muscle.

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, your health care provider may advise keeping your:

  • Blood pressure at140/90 or lower (even lower if you have diabetes, kidney disease, or heartfailure)
  • LDL cholesterol level at 100 mg/dL or lower (even lower for some patients)
  • HbA1c (for peoplewith diabetes) at your recommended level

Living a Healthy Lifestyle

Some of the risk factors for heart disease that you CAN control are:

  • Smoking: Do not smoke or use tobacco.
  • Exercise: Get plenty of “aerobic” exercise (such as walking, swimming, or bicycling), at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
  • Your weight: Maintaina healthy weight. Strive for a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 and a waist smaller than 35 inches.
  • Your emotiona lhealth: get checked and treated for depression, if needed

.If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more than 1 drink a day for women, 2 for men. Drinking more than this does more harm than good. Avoid or reduce stress as much as you can.

Eating a Healthy Diet

Good nutrition is important to your heart health, and it will help control some of your risk factors for heart disease.

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Choose lean proteins, such as skinless chicken, fish, and beans.
  • Eat nonfat orlow-fat dairy products, such as skim milk and low-fat yogurt.
  • Avoid foods that contain high levels of sodium (salt).
  • Read food labels. Avoid foods that contain saturated fat and partially-hydrogenated or hydrogenated fats. These are unhealthy fats that are often found in fried foods, processed foods, and baked goods.
  • Eat fewer foods that contain cheese, cream, or eggs.

Taking Your Medicines

Your health care provider may prescribe medicine to treat CHD, high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol levels. These may include:

  • ACE inhibitors
  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channelblockers
  • Diuretics("water pills")
  • Statins to lowercholesterol
  • Nitroglycerinpills or spray to stop an angina attack.

To reduce your risk of a heart attack, your health care provider may also advise you to take aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), or prasugrel (Effient) every day. These can help prevent blood clots that could cause a heart attack from forming in your arteries.

Follow your health care provider's directions carefully to keep your heart disease andangina from getting worse.

  • NEVER just stop taking ANY of your medicines. Always talk with your health care provider first.
  • Stopping these drugs suddenly or changing your dose can make your angina worse or cause a heart attack.

A Plan to Manage Angina

Create a plan with your doct for managing your angina. Your plan should include:

  • What activitie sare okay for you to do, and which ones are not
  • What medicines you should take when you have angina
  • What are the signs that your angina is getting worse
  • When you should call your health care provider or 9-1-1

Know what can make your angina worse, and try to avoid these things. For example, some people find that cold weather, exercising, eating large meals, or getting upset or stressed worsens their angina.


Gaziano JM, Ridker PM, Libby P. Primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease .In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: ATextbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 49.

Mosca L, Benjamin EJ, Berra K, et al. Effectiveness-Based Guidelines for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Women--2011 Update: a guideline from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123(11);1243-1262.

Review Date: 7/12/2012
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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