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.
Consult your doctor before exercising if you have angina. Chest pain can be a sign of a life-threatening condition such as a heart attack. Seek immediate medical attention if you have unexplained chest pain, as advised by the Mayo Clinic.
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For best results, participate in a structured angina exercise program, such as cardiac rehabilitation, under the supervision of a physical therapist, as discussed in a 2014 article published by the American Journal of Medicine.
Doctors often prescribe exercise for angina patients — depending on the underlying cause.
Types of Angina Diagnoses
The two main types of angina are stable and unstable angina, as explained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. 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.
Try an Angina Exercise Program
Exercising in moderation may help you prevent an angina attack and lower your risk of heart disease. Your risk for heart problems, including angina, rises when you're overweight.
According to an article published in August 2015 by Australian Prescriber, healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise, smoking cessation, maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy diet help reduce cardiovascular risk factors in patients with chronic stable angina.
Daily exercise can also help you shed excess weight, manage your blood glucose and cholesterol levels and reduce your stress. The Mayo Clinic 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.
Pacing Yourself With Exercise
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. 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.
Seek Medical Treatment
Many medical conditions, angina included, can improve through exercise, but only when combined with other treatment methods.
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. Your doctor might also prescribe aspirin for angina.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Unstable Angina"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Stable Angina"
- Mayo Clinic: "Angina"
- Australian Prescriber: "Medical Management of Chronic Stable Angina"
- American Journal of Medicine: "Exercise as a Therapeutic Intervention in Patients With Stable Ischemic Heart Disease: An Underfilled Prescription"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.