Angina is chest pain that occurs when your heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. It’s not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying heart problem, usually coronary artery disease.
It can feel like:
- Pressure, squeezing or burning in your chest, shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back.
- Indigestion (heartburn).
- Shortness of breath.
What Causes Angina
Think of the four E’s:
- Eating a large meal.
- Exercise and other physical activity.
- Extreme cold weather.
How to Control Angina
You can control angina by controlling your heart disease risk factors:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet and exercise.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Don’t smoke.
In addition, your doctor may prescribe nitroglycerin or other daily medicines to manage angina. If you’re prescribed medicines, make sure you take them as directed and try not to miss a dose.
Keep Track of Angina Symptoms
It’s important to be aware of the severity of your angina and how often it occurs so you know when you should call your doctor and whether your condition is worsening over time.
Grade Your Angina
When you have angina, grade it on a scale:
- 1 – Mild angina that goes away when you slow down or rest.
- 2 – Slightly worse than grade 1, but it also goes away with rest and/or nitroglycerin.
- 3 – Worse than grade 2. It may spread to your neck, jaw, back, shoulders or arms. You may be short of breath.
- 4 – The very worst angina you’ve ever had.
If you have grade 3 or 4, stop what you’re doing and take nitroglycerin (if prescribed). If it doesn’t go away within five minutes, call 911.
Keep a Record
Each time you have angina, write down:
- The date, time, grade and how long it lasted.
- What you think caused it.
- What you did to make it go away.
- If it’s getting worse and why (e.g., it’s happening more often, it lasts longer, rest doesn’t make it feel better, or it feels worse).
If your symptoms get worse, call your doctor. Your heart condition can change over time, so it’s important to tell your doctor so he or she can adjust your care plan accordingly.
When you’re stressed or anxious, it can cause angina by making your heart work harder. Adopt these healthy habits to help minimize stress:
- Relax with yoga or meditation.
- Exercise daily.
- Get seven or eight hours of sleep every night.
- Try to slow down, and take breaks between activities.
- Do things that make you feel happy, calm and relaxed.
- Share your feelings with family and friends — keeping things in can cause stress.
Need help? We offer stress management programs to help you develop coping skills.