Treatment

NHS

Treatment can help stop angina attacks and reduce the risk of further problems like heart attacks. Most people with angina need to take several medicines. Surgery may be recommended if medicines do not help. It's also important to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Medicines

Medicines to treat attacks

If you have stable angina (the most common type), you'll be given medicine to take when you have an angina attack. This is called glyceryl trinitrate, or GTN. It comes as a mouth spray or tablets that dissolve under your tongue.

If you have an angina attack:

  • Stop what you're doing and rest.
  • Use your GTN medicine.
  • Take another dose after 5 minutes if the first one does not help.

Call 999 for an ambulance if you still have symptoms 5 minutes after taking the second dose.

You can also use GTN to avoid an attack before doing something like exercise. You may have a headache, flushing or dizziness soon after using it. GTN tablets usually expire about 8 weeks after the packet is opened, at which point you'll need to replace them. GTN spray lasts much longer, so may be more convenient.

Medicines to prevent attacks

To help avoid more attacks, you'll also need to take at least 1 other medicine every day for the rest of your life. Some people need to take 2 or more medicines.

The main medicines used to prevent angina attacks are:

  • beta blockers – to make the heart beat slower and with less force
  • calcium channel blockers – to relax the arteries, increasing blood supply to the heart muscle

If you cannot have either of these medicines, you may be given another medicine.

Medicines to prevent hearts attacks and strokes

Angina is a warning sign that you're at a higher risk of serious problems like heart attacks or strokes. You may also need to take extra medicines to reduce this risk.

These include:

  • a low dose of aspirin to prevent blood clots
  • statins to reduce your cholesterol (blood fats) level
  • ACE inhibitors to reduce your blood pressure

Surgery

Surgery may be recommended if medicines are not helping control your angina. The 2 main types of surgery for angina are:

  • coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) – a section of blood vessel is taken from another part of the body and used to reroute blood around a blocked or narrow section of artery
  • coronary angioplasty and stent insertion – a narrowed section of artery is widened using a tiny tube called a stent

Both of these operations are similarly effective. The best one for you depends on your circumstances. If surgery is recommended, talk to your doctor or surgeon about your options.

Unstable angina

If you have unstable angina (where symptoms develop unpredictably), you'll need medicines to prevent blood clots and reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. You may be given:

  • low-dose aspirin
  • clopidogrel
  • an injection of a blood-thinning medicine soon after you're diagnosed

Surgery (either CABG or PCI) may be recommended if you have a high risk of having another angina attack, or you're at a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Useful resources

Educating and inspiring people in our local communities to lead a healthy and active...
Well NI is our range of workplace health promotion services which aim to improve people’s...
Our interactive webinars empower people to make informed lifestyle changes that will...
If you’re living with a long-term chest, heart or stroke condition, then our Taking...
Our information and wellness sessions delivered across NI focus on secondary prevention,...
If you’re living with a respiratory condition, then our Breathing Better team is here to...
Delivered over 6 weeks, this online cardiac education programme brings together groups of...
This idea is a walk in the park. It really is that simple, post a news item to see how...
Cancer Focus NI, Keeping Well vans are mobile drop-in units which bring health checks,...
Well Checks Our 'Well Check' is a comprehensive cardiovascular health check that can...
Well mind is a workshop which focuses on recognising the triggers of stress and the...
Is your heart condition.... Stopping you doing the things you want to do? Limiting your...
This supportive behaviour change programme motivates individuals who are ready to make...
Is your lung condition... Stopping you getting a good night’s sleep? Making you feel...
Work Well Live Well is a FREE workplace health and wellbeing support programme funded by...
There are a number of health campaigns throughout the year to raise awareness of...
As well as continuing to offer services to people with chest, heart and stroke conditions...
Support to drink responsibly
It’s an easy to follow programme known the world over, and perfect for those new to...
Active 10 is a free and easy to use walking app that tracks your walking and shows you...
Nutrition scanner
Food diary, exercise tracker and diet coach
Use this tool to enter your blood pressure reading and find out what it means, along with information on how to reduce a high reading.
The Heart Age Test tells you your heart age compared to your real age.