What medications help treat angina pain?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner
Medications are often used to treat episodes of angina and prevent future episodes and heart attacks. These medications include aspirin, which helps blood flow more easily, and statins, which reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood and can even reduce cholesterol buildup. Nitrates, calcium channel blockers, and beta blockers are often used to treat angina, because they all cause blood vessels to become more open so that blood can flow.
Medications that can treat angina include:
  • Nitrates - These medications come in many forms like sublingual (under the tongue) pills or sprays, nitrate pills and nitroglycerin patches. These medications dilate the veins and therefore decrease oxygen requirements of the heart. They also work by dilating the coronary arteries and consequently they increase blood flow to the heart muscle. A sublingual nitroglycerin is used during episodes of angina. One tablet or one spray under the tongue can be used up to three times at five minute intervals. A burning feeling is typically felt under the tongue and often a headache occurs. The chest pain from angina usually goes away within a few minutes. Nitrate pills and patches also are used to treat angina. These medications usually have less effectiveness over time because of tolerance. Therefore, a patient should avoid these medications for a period of 8 to 12 hours per day.
  • Beta-Blockers - These medications block the sympathetic nervous system's effects on the heart, which decreases the heart rate and force of the heart's contraction. This class of pharmaceuticals reduces heart attacks and decreases death rates in patients who have had heart attacks. Beta blockers are extremely useful but sometimes have side effects that can limit their use in some people.
  • Aspirin - Aspirin prevents platelets from clotting - and therefore clumping onto blood vessel walls. Platelets clumping onto the walls of a coronary artery can cause a heart attack. The exact dose of aspirin is not clear. Usually a baby aspirin (half of an adult aspirin) is given daily. Aspirin can have side effects including upset stomach or stomach bleeding. People who are allergic to aspirin should instead take another anti-platelet medication called Ticlopidine.

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