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How Can I Best Care for Someone with Angina?

Updated on November 25, 2014

Ever since I was a young child, I dreamed of being a nurse.

Some children have aspirations to be anything from firefighters, train conductors, or even astronauts.

I didn't.

Early in my life, I found that caring for others was really just apart of my nature.

Fast-forward and I have been honored and blessed to have been a registered nurse for over 5 years now (as of the writing and publishing of this HubPages and hub). Since graduating from Nursing school in 2009, with my B.S.N. (a 4-year nursing degree), I've worked in a variety of health care settings which, I feel, makes me uniquely qualified to write about nursing related topics such as the care of people with angina.

  • "The overall incidence of angina in the UK in 2011 was 38 per 100,000 in men and 21 per 100,000 in women." http://www.caregiverslibrary.org/caregivers-resources/grp-diseases/hsgrp-heart-disease/living-with-angina-article.aspx

So, What is Angina Exactly?

You may have heard a variety of things about the cardiovascular condition called angina.

You may have also heard the word "angina" mentioned in relation to a "heart attack".

The truth is, there are two main forms of angina--stable and unstable angina--and they do not always necessarily lead to a heart attack, however, both can be cause for seeking out medical attention. When determining if you, or your loved ones angina is a "medical emergency", there are also some general criteria you will be wanting to look out for and stay attuned to in order to determine the "severity" of the angina.

Based on those criteria, you will be able to effectively determine if a true medical emergency does, in fact, exist and if you need to head to the hospital as quickly as possible.

We will discuss those criteria later.

Oftentimes pronounced differently depending upon where one lives in the United States, "angina", in its most basic form, is essentially a condition characterized by symptoms such as chest pain and/or discomfort. Despite being related to the cardiovascular system (think, "heart"), pain and/or discomfort may not actually be felt in just the chest. Common areas for anginal pain and/or discomfort to be found are also in the back, arms, or jaw.

In my experience with nursing, thusfar, angina has been quite an interesting condition to care for. Though a nurse is not in a position to make medical diagnosis like a doctor would, effective care does require that I have an understanding of this condition, its risk factors, as well as, nursing actions to implement. It has been an "interesting" condition to care for, namely because this condition always seems to have its own fair share of "exceptions"--or, at least those items that fall outside the realm of what is "common" or expected--related to its risk factors (namely, non-modifiable) like:

  • A non-modifiable risk factor of angina is age. While angina is known to occur more in older adults above the age of 65, I occasionally come across an individual who, unfortunately, is experiencing it much earlier in life. Some nurses can attest to caring for individuals who are as young as 40 or below.
  • Another non-modifiable risk factor of angina is gender. Nursing textbooks will tell you that men tend to have a higher incidence/occurrence of angina at a younger age than women, with the incidence becoming nearly the same (for both genders) AFTER the age of 65. My experience has been one in which the women I've cared for, at fairly young ages (<65), have experienced angina, as well.

Your Heart and Your Coronary Arteries are of Critical Importance!

The heart is a basically a pump.

It is a a muscle pump.

Likewise, a major fuel needed to keep this pump running is oxygen.

As a critical organ in your body, your heart demands this oxygen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

The heart never stops needing oxygen.

That's where your coronary arteries come into play.

Your coronary arteries essentially encapsulate your heart, and they are charged with the tremendous task of providing oxygen-rich blood to your heart.

Your coronary arteries are:

  • Right Coronary Artery
  • Left Coronary Artery
  • Left Circumflex Branch
  • Left Anterior Descending Branch
  • Saphenous Vein Grafts

All of these arteries come out/originate from the aorta in your heart.

When anything occurs that impacts or interrupts the flow of blood/blood supply, from the coronary arteries to your heart, angina can ensue. This is generally called "coronary artery insufficiency".

Signs and Criteria to Judge if Chest Pain is an Emergency

Earlier in this hub, I mentioned that there are certain signs and criteria one should look for when determining if chest pain is an emergency. These can be found at the National Caregivers Library website,however, I have quoted them in this article:

  • "Pain or discomfort that is very bad, gets worse, and lasts longer than 20 minutes.
  • Pain or discomfort along with weakness, nausea, or fainting.
  • Pain or discomfort that is worse than your loved one has ever had before."

http://www.caregiverslibrary.org/caregivers-resources/grp-diseases/hsgrp-heart-disease/living-with-angina-article.aspx

Though there are certainly nursing care actions and implements that can be taken within the confines of a medical facility, your care for your loved one should really begin by simply being attuned to the signs and criteria mentioned above.

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