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Angina is a medical condition where blood cannot get to the heart in sufficient amounts. Healthcare professionals address the problem in a variety of ways including the use of stents, angioplasty, bypass surgery or medication. Lifestyle changes, however, can also help reduce the overall risk of heart attack and stroke. The most common lifestyle changes made for the purpose of controlling angina fall into a few categories:
Diet is key to control angina. Generally by diet, most doctors mean following a heart healthy diet that emphasizes whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. Including fish high in omega-3 fatty acids is useful. The diet should aim toward reducing cholesterol levels, which in turn can help reduce plaque build-up in the arteries. Even a minimal reduction in cholesterol levels can decrease frequency of angina attacks and reduce risk for heart attack.
Working with a nutritionist to find healthy eating patterns, to avoid high salt foods, and to learn how to prepare delicious healthy meals can help make this a true lifestyle change. Guidelines published by the American Heart Association are useful too. Certain nutritional supplements, like vitamins B6, B12, folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids, may be recommended by your physician or nutritionist as part of a healthy diet and a means to control angina.
Exercise is another extremely valuable component to control angina. It is very important that you don’t begin exercise on your own but seek the advice and guidelines of a physician prior to starting an exercise regime. A physician will be able to help you calculate your target heart rate, the minutes each day you should exercise, and can make recommendations if you have any other conditions that might interfere with certain forms of exercise.
If you are overweight, physicians will recommend both dietary and exercise plans to help you shed extra pounds, which in turn can help control angina. If a physician does not give you specific recommendations, then ask, or ask for a referral to a nutritionist. Sometimes a doctor pressed for time might simply tell you you need to lose weight but not tell you how. From the Mayo Clinic study on stents, evidence truly points to the need for a holistic and supportive team for the person trying to control angina or who has heart disease. Don't feel ashamed to ask for a plan and support.
If you're a smoker and you plan to continue, you will have little luck trying to control angina. Again, patients need support in this area, and may be assisted with a variety of quitting aids, like medications, nicotine patches or gum, and plenty of literature. There are smoker’s anonymous and nicotine anonymous meetings in many towns and cities. These can help keep you on the smoke free path.
Lastly, many doctors also suggest you reduce stress through a number of ways. These can range from taking a lower stress job to learning how to meditate, practice yoga or to seeing a counselor. Patients with very high amounts of stress or generalized anxiety disorder may require medication and therapy to help better deal with stress.
Learning to control angina does mean changes to your lifestyle, and may additionally require cardiac medications to help control other forms of heart disease. Many of these are well tolerated by patients. Changing the way you do things can be difficult, and patients do need support from a good medical team. Yet when these changes are made, you lower your risk for further heart disease, can often control angina, and may begin feeling a lot healthier!
Some additional helpful steps in managing angina, also referred to as angina pectoris are eating small meals, avoiding exertion, and treating or controlling other conditions that aggravate angina such as diabetes, and high blood pressure.
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