Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) Community
About This Community:

WELCOME to the ATRIAL SEPTAL DEFECT COMMUNITY: This Patient-To-Patient Community is for discussions relating to Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) which is a hole in the part of the septum that separates the atria (the upper chambers of the heart). This hole allows oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium to flow into the right atrium instead of flowing into the left ventricle as it should. This means that oxygen-rich blood gets pumped back to the lungs, where it has just been, instead of going to the body.

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Living With Angina

Living With Angina

Angina isn't a heart attack, but it does mean that you're at greater risk of having a heart attack than someone who doesn't have angina. The risk is even higher if you have unstable angina. For these reasons, it's important that you know:

  • The usual pattern of your angina, if you have it regularly.
  • What medicines you take (keep a list) and how to take them. Make sure you're medicines are readily available.
  • How to control your angina.
  • The limits of your physical activity.
  • How and when to seek medical attention.

Know the Pattern of Your Angina

Stable angina usually occurs in a pattern. You should know:

  • What causes the pain to occur
  • What angina pain feels like
  • How long the pain usually lasts
  • Whether rest or medicine relieves the pain

After several episodes, you will learn to recognize when you're having angina. It's important for you to notice if the pattern starts to change. Pattern changes may include angina that occurs more often, lasts longer, is more severe, occurs without exertion, or doesn't go away with rest or medicines.

These changes may be a sign that your symptoms are getting worse or becoming unstable. You should seek medical help. Unstable angina suggests that you're at high risk for a heart attack very soon.

Know Your Medicines

You should know what medicines you're taking, the purpose of each, how and when to take them, and possible side effects. It's very important that you know exactly when and how to take fast-acting nitroglycerin or other nitrates to relieve chest pain.

It's also important to know how to correctly store your angina medicines and when to replace them. Your doctor can advise you on this.

If you have side effects from your medicines, let your doctor know. You should never stop taking your medicines without your doctor's approval.

Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about taking your angina medicines. Tell him or her about any other medicines you might be taking. Some medicines can cause serious problems if they're taken with nitrates or other angina medicines.

Know How To Control Your Angina

After several episodes, you will know the level of activity, stress, and other factors that can bring on your angina. By knowing this, you can take steps to prevent or lessen the severity of episodes.

Physical Activity

Know what level of activity brings on your angina and try to stop and rest before chest pain starts. For example, if walking up a flight of stairs leads to chest pain, then stop halfway and rest before continuing.

When chest pain occurs during exertion, stop and rest or take your angina medicine. The pain should go away in a few minutes. If the pain doesn't go away or lasts longer than usual, call 9–1–1 for emergency care.

Emotional Stress

Anger, arguing, and worrying are examples of emotional stress that can bring on an angina episode. Try to avoid or limit situations that cause these emotions.

Exercise and relaxation can help relieve stress. Alcohol and drug use play a part in causing stress and don't relieve it. If stress is a problem for you, talk with your doctor about getting help for it.

Eating Large Meals

If this leads to chest pain, eat smaller meals. Also, avoid eating rich foods.

Know the Limits of Your Physical Activity

Most people with stable angina can continue their normal activities. This includes work, hobbies, and sexual relations. However, if you do very strenuous activities or have a stressful job, talk to your doctor.

Know How and When To Seek Medical Attention

If you have angina, you're at a higher risk for a heart attack than someone who doesn't have angina. So it's very important that you and your family know how and when to seek medical attention.

Talk to your doctor about making an emergency action plan. The plan should include making sure you and your family members know:

  • The signs and symptoms of a heart attack
  • How to use aspirin and nitroglycerin when needed
  • How to access emergency medical services in your community
  • The location of the nearest hospital that offers 24-hour emergency heart care

Be sure to discuss your emergency plan with your family members. Take action quickly if your chest pain becomes severe, lasts longer than a few minutes, or isn't relieved by rest or medicine.

Sometimes, it may be difficult to tell the difference between unstable angina and a heart attack. Either way, it's an emergency situation, and you should call 9–1–1 right away.

Author/Source: National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, Division of the National Institutes of Health [NIH]

Retrieved: June 2008

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