Discharge Instructions for Angina

Discharge Instructions for Angina

You have been diagnosed with a type of chest pain called angina. Angina occurs when too little oxygen reaches the heart muscle. It is most often felt under your breastbone, in your left shoulder, or down your left arm. The pain may even spread to your jaw or back. Exercise, increased activity, emotional upset, or stress can trigger this pain. With proper treatment and lifestyle changes to reduce risk factors, most people with angina are able to maintain a full and active life.

Managing Risk Factors

  • Learn how to take your own blood pressure. Keep a record of your results. Ask your doctor which readings mean that you need medical attention.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Get help to lose any extra pounds.

  • Cut back on salt.

    • Limit canned, dried, packaged, and fast foods.

    • Don’t add salt to your food at the table.

    • Season foods with herbs instead of salt when you cook.

  • Begin an exercise program. Ask your doctor how to get started. You can benefit from simple activities such as walking or gardening.

  • Break the smoking habit. Enroll in a stop-smoking program to improve your chances of success.

  • Avoid stressful situations. Learn stress-management techniques.

Managing Medication

  • Keep a record of your episodes of chest pain. Take these with you when you see your doctor.

  • Take your medication (usually nitroglycerin) exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses.

Taking Nitroglycerin

  • Keep your nitroglycerin with you at all times.

  • If you’re on nitroglycerin, don’t take Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra at all. These medications can react with nitroglycerin and cause your blood pressure to drop to a dangerous or even life-threatening level.

  • If you use nitroglycerin to prevent angina attacks, follow your doctor’s instructions for your kind of nitroglycerin (pill, spray, or skin ointment).

  • If you use nitroglycerin to stop an angina attack, follow these steps:

    • Sit down (you may become dizzy).

    • Place one tablet under your tongue, or between your lip and gum, or between your cheek and gum. Let the tablet dissolve completely; do not chew or swallow the tablet.

    • If you use a spray, then spray once on or under your tongue. Do not inhale. Close your mouth. Wait a few seconds before you swallow and don't rinse your mouth for 5 to 10 minutes.

    • After taking one tablet or spraying once, continue sitting for 5 minutes.

    • If the angina goes away completely, rest awhile and follow your doctor's orders about returning to your normal routine.

    • If the chest pain or pressure continues, CALL 911 immediately. Do NOT delay. You may be having a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction, or AMI)!

    • You may be told by your doctor to CALL 911 after taking 2 or 3 tables or sprays of nitroglycerin (spaced 5 minutes apart) and the chest pain or pressure is still present 5 minutes after the last dose. Do not take more than 3 tablets, or spray more than 3 times, within 15 minutes. 


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Severe headache

  • Severe dizziness, or fainting

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Fast heartbeat (higher than 100 beats per minute)

  • Swollen ankles

  • Weakness

  • Angina attacks that last longer, occur more often, or are more severe than in the past