Living With Angina
How To Survive Your Condition

Living With Angina Chest Pain

Living with Angina

Living With Angina

Contents

I Was Recently Diagnosed With Angina. Will Life Ever Be The Same?
What Do I Need To Know About My Medications?
I'm Having Anxiety Attacks, What Can I Do About Them?
Why Am I Depressed?
Can I Continue Working?
I've Lost Interest In Sex. Is This Normal?
Can I Drive?
Are There Any Restrictions With Flying?
What Can I Do To Help Myself?


Overview of Condition:

Angina Attack

I Was Recently Diagnosed With Angina. Will Life Ever Be The Same?

One of the biggest challenges for many people diagnosed with angina diagnosis is to accept that life will never be quite the same again. Apart from making changes to the way you carry out daily physical activities you also have to accept that taking drugs is going to be a regular part of your life. Some people may even fear that their angina will worsen and that they could have a heart attack. Never be tempted to think by ignoring it or by doing nothing the condition will go away. Instead accept that your life can still be very good with a few modifications. You can still enjoy many of the activities you used to by learning when and how to use your drugs in the right way; and by employing some lifestyle changes that will help to lower your heart disease risk factors. In other words, you should take control of your angina rather than let it control you.

What Do I Need To Know About My Medications?

Your doctor will discuss your angina treatment plan with you once the condition has been confirmed. You will probably be prescribed nitrate medications in the form of fast acting pills or sprays which can be used to alleviate chest pain when it occurs. If your condition is more chronic you may be prescribed slow acting pills which are taken several times a day to prevent pain occurring in the first place. The first thing to know is that none of these drugs are addictive. This means you can use them as often as you like without any harm or fear of addiction. Some people think if they use their pills or spray a lot then their condition is bad while others think by sparing their meds their condition is improving. Neither way of thinking will help you. Accepting that you need to take your medications as often as you feel like it will give you freedom and reduce unnecessary stress. If you take nitrates when they are not necessary, the worst thing likely to happen is you will get a headache. This is how you control your angina rather than letting it control you.

I Have Started Having Anxiety Attacks, What Can I Do About Them?

Some people become anxious when they start experiencing angina symptoms. They may be particularly fearful because the underlying cause is usually coronary heart disease which can lead to heart attacks or stroke. Anxiety attacks usually start by a negative thought which goes through your mind. It can trigger a rush of adrenaline which causes physical symptoms such as a faster heart rate and clammy hands. As the person becomes aware that something is happening to them, they worry and symptoms worsen. Chest pain and breathlessness may occur. These are the classic signs of a panic attack. Learning to cope with your feelings will stop these attacks from occurring. Techniques can include learning how to talk yourself out of an attack and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Learn breathing techniques to stop yourself hyperventilating (breathing too fast). A quick and easy method for example is to count down from 100. Buy a relaxation DVD or audio DVD to help you learn other techniques, or alternatively talk to a professional counselor who specializes in teaching relaxation techniques.

Why Am I Depressed?

It is very common for people with signs of coronary heart disease to become depressed. This can happen when you start to feel your quality of life is affected by the disease if you can no longer do the things you used to enjoy. Depression can make a person lose enthusiasm for life, it can make them unsociable, short tempered and irritable. It usually does not occur overnight but rather creeps up on us so we are unaware of its presence. If you feel depressed talk to a counselor, do not try to cope with it on your own. Read about the effects of depression.

Can I Continue Working?

Most people can continue working in their job after being diagnosed with angina. The only usual exceptions are those who work in a very physical or mentally demanding job or where health and safety issues may be a concern (for example drivers and pilots). As emotional stress is a common trigger for an angina attack in women (more so than in men), it may be worth learning stress management skills to handle any occasional work stresses (read about the dangers of stress). Time management is important as one of the most common reasons for stress in women is feeling overwhelmed by all the things they have to fit into a day. As a simple rule of thumb, aim to spend one third of your day sleeping, one third working and one third on leisure or social. This balance will help to keep stress at bay. In the home, jobs which require physical exertion such as mowing the lawn or decorating can be done a little at a time. Try not to let the thought of the task make you anxious. See also, is there an online test for stress?

I've Lost Interest In Sex. Is This Normal?

Yes, many people who develop CHD come to fear sexual activity in case it triggers chest pain. The fear of having a bad angina attack, or even a heart attack can understandably dampen any amorous feelings. Research shows that stress on the heart associated with love making is the equivalent of walking up and down a flight of stairs with 26 steps. If you can do this without pain, then sexual intercourse should be no problem. Always resume sexual relations with your partner gradually to determine if it brings on an attack or not. You can take your nitrates beforehand, just as you would with any other physical activity. Where possible avoid intercourse after a heavy meal or after drinking lots of alcohol, this can make an attack more likely (as can, research shows, having sex with an unfamiliar partner). Some men who are taking beta blocker drugs may experience impotence, which is an unwelcome side effect. A word of warning, people taking nitrates should never take anti-impotence drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra because they can interact. At all times, talk to your partner about your concerns. Experimenting with positions which require minimal exertion may offer a quick and easy solution.

Can I Drive?

Yes, the use of nitrates (also referred to as nitroglycerine) does not disqualify you from driving. Occasionally the Medical Examiner may require an evaluation by a cardiologist to ensure your angina is stable. When driving if you do experience an angina attack, stop the car immediately. Do not resume driving until symptoms are well under control.

Are There Any Restrictions With Flying?

You are allowed to fly as a passenger unrestricted, as long as your angina is stable. People with Prinzmetal's or stable microvascular angina can also fly safely. Always carry your medications with you in your hand luggage. While flying drink plenty of fluids, avoid alcohol, get up and walk around the plane frequently and stretch your legs and feet regularly. If you take out travel insurance you will need to declare you have angina and/or CHD in order to receive the appropriate cover. If you have unstable angina, you should not fly. Unstable angina (where symptoms start occurring unpredictably out of the blue) indicates a worsening of your condition and is considered a medical emergency. Seek medical attention immediately.

What Can I Do To Help Myself?

You can help yourself by introducing CHD prevention lifestyle tips into your life. This will help limit the worsening of your condition. Many of the tips can even be practiced by and benefit the whole family. So what can you do?

Heart Healthy Diet Plan
Watch what you eat and introduce heart healthy eating tips into your daily menus. Eat nutritious food that will not choke your arteries and avoid empty calorie high fat foods and salt. A balanced diet includes vegetables and fruit, whole grain foods, nuts, plant oils, fish, poultry, eggs and low fat dairy products. Also read about natural treatment for angina.

Control Your Weight
If you fall into the category of Americans who are overweight or obese (which is in fact 75 percent of the population), then losing weight will help reduce your risks for high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and further worsening of heart disease. Aim to reduce your body mass index (BMI) to under 25.

Get Regular Exercise
Although it may seem strange to tell someone to exercise when exercise can prompt an angina attack, it is still important. Staying active will help ensure you do not fall into a downward spiral. The more unfit we become the less exertion it takes to bring on an angina attack - until eventually we are too afraid even to climb the stairs. Do not use your angina as a reason to stop exercising. Instead learn to pace your activity and work up to gradually increasing the time you spend. Some hospitals run angina rehabilitation programs to encourage patients not to fall into this trap. You may also find the following articles useful:
Home cardiac exercise program.
Cardiac rehab exercise program.

Lack of Exercise: Downward Spiral

Exercise with Angina

Quit Smoking
Smoking causes the heart to pump faster and the blood vessels to narrow; it also increases the rate of atherosclerosis and thrombosis (blood clots). The good news is, women who quit smoking reduce their overall heart disease risk factor by 47 percent within 5 years. Within 20 years the overall risk of dying in former smokers is similar to those who never smoked at all. There are plenty of sources of advice for how to quit smoking and medications which can help (such as Chantix and Zyban) as well as patches (Habitrol, Nicoderm CQ, Nicotrol), inhalers (Nicotrol) and sprays (Nicotrol NS).

Make An Emergency Plan
As angina increases your risk for a heart attack it is important to discuss an emergency plan with your doctor and family, just in case you need it. This plan should include:

• You and your family becoming aware of heart attack signs. For example, heart attacks in women can present differently than in men.
• Read about aspirin therapy and how to use aspirin in the case of a heart attack.
• Know the location of your nearest hospital or chest pain clinic.
• As it is not always possible to tell the difference between unstable angina and a heart attack - assume the worst, and call 911 immediately. Emergency rooms are full of people with symptoms of chest pain which turn out to have other causes, so you are not alone. Be safe, not sorry.

  Related Articles on Living With Angina

For more heart issues, see the following:

Heart Disease in Women
Stroke in Women
Living With Heart Failure
Living With Heart Disease

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