You were having angina. Angina is chest pain, chest pressure, or shortness of breath. You had this problem when your heart was not getting enough blood and oxygen. You may not have had a heart attack.
What to expect at home
You may feel sad. You may feel anxious and that you have to be very careful about what you do. All of these feelings are normal. They go away for most people after 2 or 3 weeks.
You may also feel tired when you leave the hospital. You should feel better and have more energy 5 weeks after you are discharged from the hospital.
Know the signs and symptoms of angina:
You may feel pressure, squeezing, burning, or tightness in your chest. You may also have pressure, squeezing, burning, or tightness in your arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, throat, or back.
Women may feel discomfort in their back, shoulders, and stomach area.
You may have indigestion or feel sick to your stomach. You may feel tired and be short of breath, sweaty, lightheaded, or weak. You may have these symptoms during physical activity, such as climbing stairs, walking uphill, lifting, and engaging in sexual activity.
You may have symptoms more often in cold weather. You can also have symptoms when you are resting, or when wake you up from your sleep.
Ask your doctor or nurse how to treat your chest pain when it happens.
Take it easy at first. You should be able to talk easily when you are doing any activity. If you cannot, stop the activity.
Ask your doctor about returning to work. You may need to work less, at least for a while. If heavy lifting or hard manual labor is part of your job, you may need to change the kind of work you do.
Your doctor may refer you to a cardiac rehabilitation program. This will help you learn how to slowly increase your exercise. You will also learn how to take care of your heart disease.
Diet and lifestyle
Try to limit how much alcohol you drink. Ask your doctor when it is OK to drink, and how much is safe.
Do not smoke cigarettes. If you do smoke, ask your doctor for help quitting. Do not let anyone smoke in your home.
Learn more about what you should eat for a healthier heart and blood vessels. Avoid salty and fatty foods. Stay away from fast-food restaurants. Your doctor can refer you to a dietitian, who can help you plan a healthy diet.
Try to avoid stressful situations. If you feel stressed or sad, tell your doctor or nurse. They can refer you to a counselor.
Ask your doctor about sexual activity. Men should not take medicines or any herbal supplements for erection problems without checking with their doctor first. These drugs are not safe when used with nitroglycerin.
Taking your heart drugs
Have all of your prescriptions filled before you go home. You should take your drugs the way your doctor and nurse have told you to. Ask your doctor or nurse if you can still take other prescription drugs, herbs, or supplements you have been taking.
Take your drugs with water or juice. Do not drink grapefruit juice (or eat grapefruit), since they may change how your body absorbs certain medicines. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about this.
People who have angina often receive the below drugs. But sometimes these drugs may not be safe to take. Talk with your health care providers if you are not already taking one of these drugs:
Antiplatelet drugs (blood thinners), such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), prasugrel (Efient), or ticagrelor (Brilinta)
Other medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin), to help keep your blood from clotting
Beta-blockers and ACE inhibitor medicines, to help protect your heart
Never just stop taking any of these drugs. Do not stop taking any other drugs you may be taking for diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other medical problems.
If you are taking a blood thinner, you may need to have extra blood tests to make sure your dose is correct.
When to call the doctor
Call your doctor if you feel:
Pain, pressure, tightness, or heaviness in the chest, arm, neck, or jaw
Shortness of breath
Gas pains or indigestion
Numbness in your arms
Sweaty, or if you lose color
Changes in your angina may mean your heart disease is getting worse. Call your doctor if your angina:
Occurs more often
Occurs when you are not active or when you are resting
If drugs do not help ease your angina symptoms as well as they used to
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Fihn SD, Gardin JM, Abrams Jet al. 2012 ACCF/AHA/ACP/AATS/PCNA/SCAI/STS guideline for the diagnosis and management of patients with stable ischemic heart disease: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association task force on practice guidelines, and the American College of Physicians, American Association for Thoracic Surgery, Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, and Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Circulation. 2012;126(25):e354-e471.
Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.