What can you do to treat angina?
You can improve your condition by altering your way of life to reduce the chance of attacks of angina. The suggestions that follow can help you live more comfortably with angina.
1. Control your physical activity.
Learn what kinds of physical activities bring on your angina, and avoid doing them. Remember, it's how strenuously you exert yourself, not how long you do so, that causes angina. Some people can walk a mile or more without discomfort if they pace themselves. These same people may have an anginal attack if they walk rapidly for half a block. Others can perform certain kinds of manual labor all day, but brief, intense physical effort will quickly bring chest discomfort. If sexual intercourse causes angina, discuss this with your doctor. Sometimes taking nitroglycerin can prevent angina during sex. Many people find they're more prone to attacks of angina when they exert themselves in extremes of temperature (hot or cold) or after a heavy meal. You may find that what you can do easily in mild weather will cause chest discomfort if done in the cold and wind. If this happens, cut back on your activities in winter weather and dress warmly whenever you're outdoors. Consult your doctor before you try to shovel snow or do other hard work in cold weather.
2. Exercise regularly.
Moderate exercise may be good for you. Many times symptoms of angina decrease when a person starts a program of progressive exercise. Ask your doctor about the best types and amounts of exercise for you. If your discomfort occurs during daily exercise, reduce your exercise and consult your doctor.
3. Avoid emotional upsets.
Any kind of emotional upset, including outbursts of temper, can trigger angina. Excitement can also cause chest discomfort. Learning to control your emotions will help you control your angina. Many people are surprised at how well they can control their emotions when they try. Even so, it's impossible to avoid all emotional or anxiety producing situations. Try to anticipate these situations and use your nitroglycerin in advance to help prevent chest discomfort. Some kinds of recurring emotional problems can be very hard to handle. If you're having difficulty, seek professional help. If long-standing tensions seem to aggravate your angina, discuss them with your doctor, a clergyman or a family counselor. Identify everyday situations in which you feel pressured and try to control them. Avoid time pressures like deadlines and overcrowded schedules. Also, don't insist on doing everything yourself.
Meditation and relaxation exercises are good ways to calm your emotions. Some doctors suggest that you totally relax all your muscles twice a day for 20 minutes. Others advise doing deep breathing exercises or concentrating on a pleasant thought or experience whenever you feel under stress. If these practices don't seem to help, your doctor may recommend a mild tranquilizer. You may feel that taking tranquilizers is a sign of weakness or worry about becoming dependent upon them. If so, don't worry. Tranquilizers are safe and effective for controlling angina if you follow your doctor's advice.
4. Adopt good eating habits.
Like exercise, digestion causes the heart to work harder. That means it needs more blood. Heavy meals can put a strain on your heart. You may find that you're especially prone to anginal discomfort after eating. Try to avoid large meals and rich foods that leave you feeling stuffed. Relax for a while after eating. If you often get angina after meals, your doctor may advise you to use nitroglycerin before eating. Extra weight can also aggravate angina. Many times a person's angina decreases or disappears after weight loss. Even if you aren't overweight, your doctor may recommend that you control the amount of fat in your daily diet. He or she may prescribe a diet. Ask about what books are available that discuss heart healthy diets.
5. Moderate alcohol intake.
Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol helps some people relax and may not be harmful for you. The good form of cholesterol in your blood may be increased by alcohol. But drinking too much alcohol can be potentially harmful, because it affects the heart. Some people with angina have other medical conditions that keep them from drinking alcohol. Ask your doctor's advice about drinking alcohol. And remember, if you're trying to lose weight, you shouldn't drink too much. Alcoholic drinks are usually high in calories.
6. Don't use any tobacco products.
Cigarette smoking is bad for your general health. It's critical to avoid smoking if you have angina or any form of heart disease. Cigarette smoking often makes angina worse, and it increases the risk of heart attack and other circulatory disorders. If you smoke, QUIT!