Angina Pectoris (cont.)
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Nitroglycerin is a sublingual (under the tongue) medication relieves angina symptoms by expanding blood vessels and decreasing the muscle's need for oxygen. This allows more blood to flow through the coronary arteries. Nitroglycerin is taken only when the patient actually has symptoms or expects to have them. Slow - or long-acting nitroglycerin can be used as a preventative treatment for angina but not until beta blockers are tried first.
Beta blockers: Beta blockers lessen the heart's workload. They slow the heart rate, decrease blood pressure, and lessen the force of contraction of the heart muscle. This decreases the heart's need for oxygen and thus decreases angina symptoms. Beta blockers are taken every day, regardless of whether the patient is having symptoms, because they are proven to prevent heart attacks and sudden death.
Calcium channel blockers (CCBs): Calcium channel blockers are used primarily when beta blockers cannot be used and/or the patient is still having angina with beta blockers. Calcium channel blockers also lower blood pressure and certain ones slow heart rate. Calcium channel blockers have to be taken every day.
Aspirin: Daily aspirin therapy is mandatory to decrease the possibility of sticky platelets in the blood starting a blood clot.
Statins: Statins lower cholesterol and have been shown to stabilize the fatty plaque on the inner lining of the coronary artery, even when the blood cholesterol is normal or minimally increased. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad cholesterol" levels should be less than 70 mg/dL for those at high risk of heart disease. Every person with angina needs to know exactly what his or her blood lipids/fats are.
Miscellaneous anti-anginal drugs: New drugs are being studied to treat angina. In 2006, the FDA approved ranolazine (Ranexa). Because of its side effects (potential to cause abnormal heart rhythm), ranolazine is indicated only after other conventional drug treatments are found to be ineffective.
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