Angina is a heart condition that is characterized by chest pain or discomfort. It usually occurs when there is a blockage in one or more of the coronary arteries, which causes ischemia, or blood and oxygen deprivation. Angina treatment options can include lifestyle changes, medication, and medical procedures such as surgery.
One of the first things that most doctors recommend as an angina treatment is some changes in the patient's lifestyle. Sometimes, a mild case of angina can be overcome with this treatment option alone. More often, however, it is combined with other treatments.
Angina patients who smoke are strongly encouraged to quit, and advised to stay away from second-hand smoke. Also, as overexertion can put stress on the heart muscle, activities that cause the heart to pump too rapidly should be avoided. Moderate exercise, however, is encouraged, because it can help strengthen the heart, and, when combined with a healthy diet, can help control a person's weight. Stress also can put stress on the heart muscle, so most cardiologists encourage their patients to relax.
Medication as an angina treatment usually focuses on reducing the strain on a person's heart by lowering blood pressure and increasing the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches these vital muscles. Many angina medications work by relaxing and widening the blood vessels in the heart, and allowing blood to flow more easily. Nitrates, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers are all types of these medicines. Sometimes aspirin can be taken to thin the blood and prevent clots, and beta blockers can be taken to slow down a person's heart rate.
Surgery is usually recommended as an angina treatment in severe cases. Angioplasty is one of the most common surgeries for angina. During this procedure, a thin balloon is inserted into a blocked coronary artery. It is then inflated, which opens the artery wider, allowing the blood to flow through it better. This procedure is usually performed in combination with a stent placement. During a stenting procedure, a tiny wire mesh tube is inserted into the artery to prop it open.
When other treatment methods have failed, a coronary artery bypass grafting surgery may be performed. For this angina treatment procedure, a small piece of an artery from somewhere else in the body, usually the arm or the leg, is needed. After it is retrieved, it is grafted into the heart to bypass the blood around a significant blockage.