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Angina

Living With Angina

Friday, March 16, 2012 - 14:24

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Most people can resume a normal or near-normal life after treatment of angina. Some lifestyle changes will be necessary, but life can still be good.

Simple angina can be kept under control by

  • Following medical advice
  • Taking necessary medication
  • Keeping in good physical condition
  • Eating well

Even if angina is complicated by other health problems, it should be controllable.

Angina is not a disease of the "fragile." In fact, most angina sufferers lead extremely busy, stress-filled lives. Their disease provides a warning sign that they need to make adjustments in an otherwise full life.

Notify a physician if angina attacks become more frequent or more severe. This is especially important if angina comes on while a person is resting, or if nitrate tablets seem to become less effective.

Work

In spite of having angina, most people are able to continue working. Yet individuals with angina often have fast-paced schedules that could benefit from some improvement. A diagnosis of angina is a good reason to cut down on commitments and to examine one's lifestyle. For example:

  • Do you have to hurry to the train or bus in the morning?
  • Would you be less harassed if you planned your work better?
  • Do you do unnecessary things?

If "yes" is the answer to these questions, a slower, more efficient schedule should relieve stress and lessen the chance of an attack.

Intense physical labor is inappropriate, and special regulations apply to people who are licensed for heavy goods vehicles or public service vehicles. Driving a car is generally allowed, provided that angina does not occur while driving.

Sex

The combination of physical activity and sexual excitement may bring on an angina attack. But individuals need not avoid sexual activity, unless it produces angina. Attacks usually can be prevented by taking a nitrate or beta-blocker beforehand.

Need To Know:

Nitrates and Viagra

If you are taking nitrate medication such as nitroglycerin, you should not take Viagra. The deaths that have been reported for people using Viagra are those with coronary heart disease who are also taking nitrates.

Alcohol

In small amounts, alcohol does not harm the heart. In fact, it might help to relieve tension. But people must be careful to ensure that alcohol does not increase body weight.

Here are some recommended guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Women - No more than one standard drink per day
  • Men - No more than two standard drinks per day

A standard drink is the equivalent of:

  • 12 oz. regular beer (5% alcohol), or
  • 1.5 oz. 80% distilled spirits (40% alcohol), or
  • 5 oz. wine (12% alcohol)

Eating habits

If the coronary arteries are partly blocked, the chances are that the individual has been eating too many fatty foods and has a high level of cholesterol in the blood. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid fats in general and saturated fats in particular (such as dairy products and fatty meat).

People with high blood pressure (hypertension) should limit sodium (salt) intake (for example, aim for a target of under 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day) and learn to use other seasonings such as garlic, lemon, and onion.

Eat lean meats, use little or no butter, and switch to skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. Grill food rather than frying it. Eat plenty of fruit and fresh vegetables.

Weight gain

Avoid weight gain. Keeping close to the recommended weight for one's height and age will keep blood pressure down and reduce the heart's workload.

Stress

Avoid activities that cause mental and emotional turmoil. People with angina must learn to relax more. Some hobbies help people to relax, but it is most important to identify and eliminate unnecessary stresses at home and at work.

Exercise

Many people with angina can and should exercise regularly, provided that exercise is not carried out to the point of exhaustion.

Smoking

The most important thing that a smoker with angina can do is to stop smoking.

Vacations

Vacations and holidays are important and are recommended. But, when traveling, it is essential to organize trips and allow plenty of time. Also, avoid carrying heavy pieces of luggage.

Keep your angina medication in your carry-on luggage, not in the suitcases you check at the gate, so that it is easily accessible.

Air travel in a modern, pressurized aircraft should cause no problems. It is advisable to rest in the airport departure lounge so that an angina attack is less likely when walking to the departure gate. If angina is brought on by hectic activity, tell the airline staff in advance. They can provide help so that the flight is boarded with as little stress as possible.

Avoid travel at high mountain altitudes, although people with mild or moderate angina should be unaffected at heights up to about 6,600 feet (2,000 meters).

Angina