Stable Angina: Definition & Treatment

Instructor: John Marini

I am a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic in New York State

In this lesson we will map out the basic characteristics and treatments of stable angina. There are many forms of angina that are classified in the medical community, but stable angina is the most common form of this condition.

Definition and Meaning

Angina, in its simplest, refers to chest pain. There are several types of angina that doctors describe, each with their own unique definition and characteristics. In this lesson, we will focus on stable angina, commonly called angina pectoris. Stable angina is unique in that it has a predictable and recognizable onset usually caused by too much physical exertion.

Angina itself is not a disease or something you can catch, like a cold. Angina (chest pain) is the result of an underlying disease or condition. Angina is often referred to as a symptom of a disease. Usually the underlying cause has something to do with the heart. If someone has heart disease, they are at a greater risk of developing and experiencing angina. One of the most common heart diseases that causes angina is coronary artery disease.

Stable angina is felt in the chest as a result of decreased blood flow to the heart. Because the heart blood vessels are not working properly due to heart disease, the heart itself is not getting enough blood. In coronary artery disease the blood vessels that supply the heart, called the coronary arteries, are often blocked or narrowed, which is why the blood cannot properly travel through. When a person with stable angina is exerting his or herself, they experience pain and discomfort because the heart is working hard, but the blood is not getting through to help it. When a person with stable angina stops physical activity or exerting extra energy, the pain will usually go away because the heart is getting enough blood to maintain its current work.

Characteristics of Stable Angina

  • Pain/discomfort is felt when too much physical exertion or emotional activity takes place. Both cause the heart to work harder.
  • Usually the angina episode has the same feeling each time that it happens. The pain is recognizable and consistent.
  • Stable angina can occur with an increase in stress or during stressful situations.
  • The pain will go away or subside when the person stops extra physical activity or calms down.
  • Stable angina can be relieved by rest as well as medications.
  • The pain or discomfort is usually felt in the chest, but it can also be felt in the arms, shoulders, neck or jaw.

Treatment of Stable Angina

Stable angina is very predictable and manageable. The individual usually knows their capabilities and how much physical activity and energy they are able to exert. The main two treatments of this type of angina are rest and medication. The medication given is nitroglycerin. It usually comes in a tablet form and when the episode of angina comes on, the person can quickly take the tablet. Nitroglycerin relaxes the blood vessels to the heart, allowing more blood to flow to the heart, which helps relieve the pain.

It is important to know that one of the best ways to treat stable angina is to prevent it. Taking the necessary steps to ensure that your heart is healthy and functioning properly throughout your life can help to avoid heart diseases which lead to angina.

Tips for a Healthy Heart

The following tips can help keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease:

  • Stay Active- Live an active lifestyle, get outdoors when you can, and really aim to do some sort of physical activity every day
  • Exercise- It is important to regularly exercise, whether that means running, walking or hitting the gym at least 3-5 times a week. Exercise will work your muscles and blood vessels to keep them working properly so that you will be less susceptible to heart disease
  • Maintain an adequate diet- Eating a variety of lean meats, fruits and vegetables directly affects your heart in a positive way. Eating fatty foods such as fast food will clog or narrow your arteries over time which can lead to an increase risk of heart disease. In addition, staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water helps the heart system to function properly
  • Regular checkups- Going to see your doctor every year to check your blood work and get a physical is also a great way to track your health. For example, if you have high cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease, it is good to get your blood work done so you can take the necessary steps to lower that cholesterol. If you regularly don't see a doctor, you may never know you have something you need to work on until it is too late

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