Ease the pain in your chest by paying closer attention to your coronary arteries. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
Understand the warning signs
Seek immediate medical attention if you develop symptoms of new or worsening chest pain
Add L-carnitine to your daily routine
Take 1 gram of this nutritional supplement two or three times a day to improve heart function and ease symptoms of angina
Mix in some magnesium
Take 200 to 300 mg of this mineral supplement twice a day to reduce the risk of exercise-induced chest pain
About This Condition
Angina, or angina pectoris, is chest pain due either to reduced blood flow to the heart or to certain
other abnormalities of heart function.
Hardening (atherosclerosis) of the coronary arteries that feed the heart is usually the underlying
problem. Spasms of the coronary arteries may also cause angina.
There are three main types of angina. The first is called stable angina. This type of chest pain comes on
during exercise and is both common and predictable. Stable angina is most often associated with
atherosclerosis. A second type, called variant angina, can occur at rest or during exercise. This type is
primarily due to sudden coronary artery spasm, though atherosclerosis may also be a component. The third,
most severe type is called unstable angina. This angina occurs with no predictability and can quickly lead to
a heart attack. Anyone with significant, new chest pain or a
worsening of previously mild angina must seek medical care immediately.
It is important for treatment and prevention of angina (and for overall health) to learn more about atherosclerosis
Common symptoms of angina include a squeezing pressure, heaviness, ache, or burning pain (like indigestion) in the chest that occur for 5 to 30 minutes at a time. These sensations are usually felt behind the breastbone but may also be felt in the jaw, neck, arms, back, or upper abdomen. Some people may also have difficulty in breathing or may become pale and sweaty. Symptoms of angina usually appear during physical exertion, after heavy meals, and with heightened emotional states, such as anger, frustration, shock, and excitement.
Healthy Lifestyle Tips
Cigarette smoking causes damage to the coronary arteries and, in this way, can contribute to angina. It is critical for anyone with angina who smokes to stop smoking. Smoking has also been shown to reduce the effectiveness of treatments for angina.1 Secondhand smoke should be avoided as well.2
Increasing physical exercise has been clearly demonstrated to reduce symptoms of angina, as well as to relieve its underlying causes. One study found that intense exercise for ten minutes daily was as effective as beta-blocker drugs in a group of patients with angina.3 Anyone with angina or any other heart condition, as well as anyone over the age of 40, should consult a doctor before beginning an exercise program.
People suffering from angina may find acupuncture to reduce symptoms, the need for medication, and even the need for invasive surgery. While some studies of acupuncture treatment for angina found no benefit,4 others have demonstrated positive results. An uncontrolled trial of 49 angina patients found that acupuncture resulted in 58% less nitroglycerin use and a 38% decrease in the number of angina attacks.5 In another study, 69 patients suffering with severe angina were treated with a combination of acupuncture, shiatsu (acupressure), and lifestyle changes. The results were compared to patients with severe angina treated with coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). The incidence of heart attack and death was 21% among those treated with CABG and 7% among those treated with the combined therapy including acupuncture. In addition, 61% of those treated with the combination therapy, because of their improved health, postponed any further invasive treatment.6 In a single-blind study of 26 patients, a reduction in angina attack rate and nitroglycerin use, as well as an improvement in exercise performance, occurred in the treatment group compared to a sham (fake) acupuncture group.7 Findings from a controlled trial comparing acupuncture treatment (three treatments per week for four weeks) to placebo tablets support these results, demonstrating a reduction in the number of angina attacks, improved exercise performance, and corresponding improvements in ECG readings.8
Transcendental meditation (20 minutes twice daily of silently chanting a mantra with eyes closed) was found in a small controlled trial to reduce angina-like chest pain and to normalize electrocardiograms (ECGs) in patients with cardiac syndrome X, a form of angina in people with otherwise normal coronary arteries.9 While these patients did not have angina in the classic sense, their chest pain was thought to result from anxiety, which may reduce blood flow to the heart, and their ECGs resembled those of classic angina patients. It is not yet known whether transcendental meditation would have the same effect on patients with angina pectoris.
Evidence from preliminary10, 11, 12 and controlled13 studies suggests that there may be a relationship between the presence of heart disease and changes to the muscles and joints of the spine that are detectable by practitioners of spinal manipulation. In a double-blind study, patients with proven coronary disease were more likely to have specific changes in their spine detectable by palpating or “feeling” their backs than were subjects who were healthy.14 Controlled studies have demonstrated that manipulation of the joints in the middle of the neck can increase heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure,15, 16 but manipulation of the lower neck does not appear to have the same effect.17 Despite these intriguing findings, there is no research investigating whether manipulation reduces angina symptoms or otherwise benefits the heart and cardiovascular system.
The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.
Skip the coffee
Drinking five or more cups of coffee per day has been shown to increase angina risk.
Coffee should probably be avoided. Drinking five or more cups of coffee per day has been shown to increase the risk of angina, although effects of different forms of coffee on angina are unclear.18
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
150 mg daily
CoQ10 contributes to the heart’s energy-making mechanisms. Angina patients given CoQ10 have experienced greater ability to exercise without chest pain.
Coenzyme Q10 contributes to the energy-making mechanisms of the heart. Angina patients given 150 mg of coenzyme Q10 each day have experienced greater ability to exercise without experiencing chest pain.19 This has been confirmed in independent investigations.20
1 gram two or three times per day
Supplementing with L-carnitine may improve heart function and ease angina symptoms.
L-carnitine is an amino acid needed to transport fats into the mitochondria (the place in the cell where fats are turned into energy). Adequate energy production is essential for normal heart function. Several studies using 1 gram of L-carnitine two to three times per day showed an improvement in heart function and a reduction in symptoms of angina.21, 22, 23Coenzyme Q10 also contributes to the energy-making mechanisms of the heart. Angina patients given 150 mg of coenzyme Q10 each day have experienced greater ability to exercise without experiencing chest pain.24 This has been confirmed in independent investigations.25
2 to 3 grams three times per day
In one study, taking arginine improved the ability of angina sufferers to exercise. Detailed studies have proven that arginine works by stimulating blood vessel dilation.
Nitroglycerin and similar drugs cause dilation of arteries by interacting with nitric oxide, a potent stimulus for dilation. Nitric oxide is made from arginine, a common amino acid. Blood cells in people with angina are known to make insufficient nitric oxide,26 which may in part be due to abnormalities of arginine metabolism. Taking 2 grams of arginine three times per day for as little as three days has improved the ability of angina sufferers to exercise.27 Seven of ten people with severe angina improved dramatically after taking 9 grams of arginine per day for three months in an uncontrolled study.28 Detailed studies have investigated the mechanism of arginine and have proven it operates by stimulating blood vessel dilation.29
Consult a doctor
Fish oil has been shown to reduce chest pain and the need for nitroglycerin. Taking vitamin E with fish oil may protect the oil from undergoing potentially damaging oxidation in the body.
Fish oil, which contains the fatty acids known as EPA and DHA, has been studied in the treatment of angina. In some studies, enough fish oil to provide a total of about 3 grams of EPA and 2 grams of DHA has reduced chest pain as well as the need for nitroglycerin;30 other investigators could not confirm these findings.31 People who take fish oil may also need to take vitamin E to protect the oil from undergoing potentially damaging oxidation in the body.32 It is not known how much vitamin E is needed to prevent such oxidation; the amount required would presumably depend on the amount of fish oil used. In one study, 300 IU of vitamin E per day prevented oxidation damage in individuals taking 6 grams of fish oil per day.33
60 mg of an herbal extract containing 18.75% oligomeric procyanidins taken three times per day
Parts of the hawthorn tree contain flavonoids that may protect blood vessels from damage. Taking hawthorn extract improved heart function and exercise tolerance in angina patients in one trial.
The fruit, leaves, and flowers of the hawthorn tree contain flavonoids, including oligomeric procyanidins, which may protect blood vessels from damage. A 60 mg hawthorn extract containing 18.75% oligomeric procyanidins taken three times per day improved heart function and exercise tolerance in angina patients in a small clinical trial.34
365 mg twice per day
Taking magnesium may reduce the risk of exercise-induced chest pain.
Magnesium deficiency may be a contributing factor for spasms that occur in coronary arteries, particularly in variant angina.35, 36 While studies have used injected magnesium to stop such attacks effectively,37, 38 it is unclear whether oral magnesium would be effective in preventing or treating blood vessel spasms. One double-blind study of patients with exercise-induced angina, however, showed that oral magnesium supplementation (365 mg twice a day) for 6 months significantly reduced the incidence of exercise-induced chest pain, compared with a placebo.39
600 mg three times daily (under medical supervision if taking nitroglycerin)
Under a doctor’s supervision, supplementing with NAC may improve the effects of nitroglycerin.
NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) may improve the effects of nitroglycerin in people with angina.40 People with unstable angina who took 600 mg of NAC three times daily in combination with a nitroglycerin transdermal (skin) patch for four months had significantly lower rates of subsequent heart attacks than did people who used either therapy alone or placebo.41
Refer to label instructions
In one study, men with severe coronary heart disease who took ribose were able to exercise significantly longer than those taking placebo before experiencing chest pain and before abnormalities appeared on their electrocardiogram (ECG).
In a controlled study, men with severe coronary heart disease were given an exercise test, after which they took either 15 grams of ribose or a placebo four times daily for three days. Compared with the initial test, men taking ribose were able to exercise significantly longer before experiencing chest pain and before abnormalities appeared on their electrocardiogram (ECG), but only the ECG changes were significantly improved compared with those in the placebo group.42 Sports supplement manufacturers recommend 1 to 10 grams per day of ribose, while heart disease patients and people with rare enzyme deficiencies have been given up to 60 grams per day.
50 IU daily
Low levels of antioxidant vitamins in the blood, particularly vitamin E, are associated with greater rates of angina. In one study supplementing with small amounts of vitamin E had a minor benefit in people with angina.
Low levels of antioxidant vitamins in the blood, particularly vitamin E, are associated with greater rates of angina.43 This is true even when smoking and other risk factors for angina are taken into account. Early short-term studies using 300 IU (International Units) per day of vitamin E could not find a beneficial action on angina.44 A later study supplementing small amounts of vitamin E (50 IU per day) for longer periods of time showed a minor benefit in people suffering angina.45 Those affected by variant angina have been found to have the greatest deficiency of vitamin E compared with other angina patients.46
Refer to label instructions
Bromelain prevents excessive stickiness of blood platelets, which is believed to be one of the triggering factors for angina. Supplementing with it may help.
Bromelain has been reported in a preliminary study to relieve angina. In that study, 600 people with cancer were receiving bromelain (400 to 1,000 mg per day). Fourteen of those individuals had been suffering from angina. In all 14 cases, the angina disappeared within 4 to 90 days after starting bromelain.47 However, as there was no control group in the study, the possibility of a placebo effect cannot be ruled out. Bromelain is known to prevent excessive stickiness of blood platelets,48 which is believed to be one of the triggering factors for angina.
Refer to label instructions
Khella is an African plant that contains spasm-relieving compounds, including khellin. Purified khellin was shown to be helpful in relieving angina in preliminary studies.
Khella is an African plant that contains spasm-relieving compounds, including khellin. Purified khellin was shown to be helpful in relieving angina in preliminary studies in the 1940s and 1950s.49, 50 It is unknown whether the whole herb would have the same effects. Due to the potential side effects of khella, people with angina should consult with a physician knowledgeable in botanical medicine before taking it.
Refer to label instructions
Kudzu is used in modern Chinese medicine as a treatment for angina. Standardized root tablets are sometimes used for angina pectoris.
Kudzu is used in modern Chinese medicine as a treatment for angina. Standardized root tablets (10 mg tablet is equivalent to 1.5 grams of the crude root) are sometimes used for angina pectoris in the amount of 30 to 120 mg per day.
Find Drug Interaction Information
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
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