Angina is a type of chest pain that occurs when there is inadequate blood flow to your heart. It can be a precursor to heart disease. Exercise is generally good for heart health, but you must approach it carefully when you have angina to be sure you don't cause yourself more damage.
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Types of Angina
The two main types of angina are stable and unstable angina. Stable angina is a chronic condition in which you experience chest pain during times of physical exertion, like when you exercise. Stable angina is predictable; you'll often know when to expect an episode and how long the symptoms will last. Unstable angina is more random; you'll feel pain when you're at rest, and the symptoms come seemingly out of the blue in an unpredictable pattern.
Angina Prevention and Exercise
Exercising in moderation may help you prevent an angina attack and lower your risk of heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. Your risk for heart problems, including angina, rises when you're overweight. Daily exercise can help you shed excess weight, manage your blood glucose and cholesterol levels and reduce your stress. MayoClinic.com reports that reducing stress through lifestyle changes can be part of angina treatment. The endorphins your body releases during exercise can help you feel less stressed out and relaxed, which can bring about positive physical changes. Speak to your doctor about your condition before using exercise as a treatment for angina.
When you begin to exercise under your doctor's supervision, it's important to pace yourself so the pain of stable angina won't overcome your efforts. Dr. Julian Whitaker of the California-based Whitaker Wellness Institute explains that people who have stable angina will almost always experience discomfort at the start of a workout, but stopping the activity is not necessarily the only solution. Easing up on your workout and slowing down can cause the pain to dissipate as the exercise strengthens your heart and the rest of your body.
Many medical conditions, angina included, can improve through exercise, but only when combined with other treatment methods. In the case of angina, adjusting your lifestyle by eating healthy, nutritious foods and quitting smoking are also part of the treatment. Medications like nitroglycerin may be prescribed to minimize the pain of an angina attack; take your medications and follow your doctor's orders even if you do exercise to control your condition.