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Angina (Chest Pain) FAQs

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What test might I have to deterimine if I have angina?

If you have chest pain, your doctor will want to find out whether you have stable angina or unstable angina or if something else is causing your chest pain. Because angina is usually a symptom of coronary heart disease, your doctor will want to quickly determine the severity of the heart disease and whether it is likely to cause a heart attack.

Your doctor will do a physical exam in which he or she asks about your symptoms and your risk factors for and your family history of CHD or other heart disease.

If your doctor thinks that you have unstable angina or that your angina is related to a serious heart condition, he or she may recommend one or more tests including:

What should I do if I am experiencing chest pain?

If you experience new or changing chest pain, contact your doctor right away or seek emergency medical attention. New or different symptoms may signal that your chest pain has become more dangerous (such as changing from stable to unstable angina) or it could signal a heart attack.

If you have signs of a heart attack, call 911 or seek immediate emergency medical attention. Do not wait for your symptoms to "go away." If you are not sure if the symptoms are heart attack symptoms, you should still be evaluated. Early recognition of heart attack symptoms allows for early treatment and that can reduce the risk of permanent damage to the heart muscle.

 

What can I do to prevent angina?

Simple lifestyle changes can prevent or delay angina, heart attack and heart disease. These steps can also reduce angina symptoms if you already have angina:

  • Avoid angina triggers, such as overexerting during physical activity and eating too much
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet
  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Exercise regularly and lead an active life
  • Lose weight if you're overweight
  • Control cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • Learn ways to reduce stress and manage depression and anger
  • Take all medications as prescribed by your doctor

 

Katherine Solem is a health writer and editor living in San Francisco.

 

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