Angina, Heart Attacks and Nitroglycerin Usage - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Angina, Heart Attacks and Nitroglycerin Usage

 

What is angina?

Angina is a symptom, which occurs when the heart muscle does not get enough blood flow. Blood carries oxygen. The heart muscle needs oxygen in order to survive and work efficiently. When the heart muscle struggles for blood flow, perhaps because of a blockage in one or more of the arteries that surround the heart muscle (i.e. coronary arteries), the body may send out a signal or a warning sign. This "red flag" is known as angina.

What does angina feel like?

Angina can be different for each person. Typically, angina is described as discomfort, heaviness, tightening, squeezing, aching, pressure, pain or burning in or near the chest or back. Sometimes these symptoms can radiate to or begin in one or both arms, between the shoulder blades, the neck or jawbone area. Fatigue, weakness, arm tingling/numbness and/or shortness of breath are some of the symptoms, which may also occur along with angina or instead of the typical symptoms of angina.

When does angina usually occur?

Angina typically occurs:

1. During periods of time when the demand for oxygen and blood increases, such as during physical activity

2. During or immediately following stressful situations

3. After eating a large or heavy meal

4. During exposure to cold temperatures

Sometimes angina occurs at rest. This is called unstable angina and may represent a more serious or progressive disease process.

What should you do if you get angina?

First and foremost, if you experience angina and you are engaged in any activity at the time, you should stop what you are doing, sit down and rest. Rest may be all it takes for your angina to go away. If rest does not work, the next step will be for you to treat the angina with nitroglycerin. This may involve either placing a nitro tablet under your tongue or spraying nitro under your tongue or on the inside of your cheek. Remember, you are allowed to take or spray nitro up to 3 times before you call 911. You should always wait 5 minutes between doses of nitro and never try to drive yourself or have a loved one or friend drive you to the nearest emergency room.

Some Facts About Nitro:

  1. Nitro expires fairly quickly, especially the tablets. Once the bottle is opened, nitro should be good for 6 months. If unopened, you may toss the nitro after the expiration date printed on the bottle or spray. Nitro will not work unless it is fresh. You may want to write the date you open your nitro on the outside of the bottle. Also, keep nitro in its original bottle. Nitro is very vulnerable to light and heat. If effective, nitro tablets should sting, burn or tingle once placed under your tongue and nitro spray should have a minty taste.
  2. Nitro is what is called a vasodilator; it makes the blood vessels, especially the coronary arteries, widen. As a result of this, when taking nitro, your blood pressure can drop significantly. Therefore, you should always be sitting down and resting when taking nitro.
  3. Nitro should not be taken if you are taking medication for erectile-dysfunction (i.e. Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, etc.). Please discuss your concerns with your physician.
  4. You should always carry your nitro with you. This includes when you come to cardiac rehab.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart muscle is cut off for too long. This results in serious injury and even death of the heart muscle tissue itself. Warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:

  1. Exaggerated angina symptoms or angina which is not relieved by 3 nitroglycerin tablets or sprays
  2. Increased shortness of breath not associated with performing increased physical activity
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Profuse sweating

A note about silent heart attacks:

Sometimes your doctor, through a variety of tests, can determine that you've had a heart attack in the past, but you may be unaware of when this occurred. In fact, you may not have had any symptoms or the symptoms may not have been bad enough for you to notice. This is called a silent heart attack. Diabetics are more prone to this because of loss of sensation or feeling. Unfortunately, in such cases, angina does not occur and is not a useful warning sign of underlying heart disease.

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