The good news about angina is that it’s a condition that is well understood and managed through lifestyle changes, medications and, in certain cases, surgery.
People with angina should avoid activities or situations that trigger symptoms. Pace yourself with exercise, try to reduce stress and avoid large meals. Also, make changes that reduce the risks of coronary artery disease, including: dieting, quitting smoking and losing weight. Talk with your doctor about an exercise plan that is safe for you. You may also benefit from a formal cardiac rehabilitation program with exercise training and counseling.
Nitrates, such as nitroglycerin, are prescribed to relieve angina symptoms. They widen the blood vessels that supply the heart and reduce the amount of work that the heart has to do to move blood. Nitroglycerin tablets placed under the tongue are used for fast-acting relief while pills and skin patches are used for preventing angina before it might happen. Other drugs to treat angina include: beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors (to improve blood flow, slow the heart rate, and/or reduce the strain on the heart); aspirin or anticoagulants (to prevent blood clots) and statins (to reduce cholesterol).
Procedures, Devices & Surgery
The goal of angina treatment is to reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms. For some patients, one of the following surgeries may be necessary to achieve that goal:
- Balloon angioplasty is used to open blocked coronary vessels. During this minimally invasive procedure, a thin tube (catheter) is guided into the blocked artery and a tiny balloon is inflated to clear the way so that blood flow is restored. In some cases, a small mesh tube (stent) is inserted to keep the artery open.
- Atherectomy is a blade or laser that is used in combination with a catheter to clear out plaque build-up in a blood vessel.
- Bypass surgery is a common approach that surgeons use to create new routes through which blood can flow around blocked or narrowed arteries. These “bypasses” are created using healthy blood vessels taken from the chest, arms or legs.