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Angina - Preventing angina

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Having a healthy lifestyle is the most effective way of reducing your risk of angina.

If you already have angina, making lifestyle changes will also help prevent your symptoms getting worse and reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

The best way to achieve this is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, try to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level and avoid smoking. This will lower your blood pressure, reduce your cholesterol levels and strengthen your heart.

Eating a healthy diet

Eating an unhealthy diet high in fat and salt will increase your risk of developing angina, and increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Eating a diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables can help reduce this risk. Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre and help keep your body in good condition. You should aim to eat five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

Read more about good food, healthy eating and getting your 5 a Day.

Cutting down on fat

Eating high-fat foods can cause fatty plaques to build up in your arteries. You can help prevent this by avoiding foods containing saturated fats.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter
  • ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
  • lard
  • cream
  • hard cheese
  • cakes and biscuits
  • food that contains coconut or palm oil

Eating a small amount of unsaturated fat will increase the level of good cholesterol and help reduce any blockage in your arteries. Foods high in unsaturated fat include:

  • oily fish
  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds
  • sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil

For more information, see facts about fat and eat less saturated fat.

Cutting down on salt

In addition, you should cut down on the amount of salt in your food as it can raise your blood pressure.

You should aim to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful. For more information, see tips for a lower salt diet.

Stopping smoking

Smoking can significantly increase your risk of both heart attacks and strokes because it causes your arteries to narrow and raises your blood pressure.

If you decide to stop smoking, your GP will be able to refer you to the NHS Smokefree Service, which will provide you with dedicated help and advice about the best ways to give up smoking. You can also call the NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 022 4332. The specially trained helpline staff will offer you free expert advice and encouragement.

If you are committed to giving up smoking but do not want to be referred to a stop smoking service, your GP should be able to prescribe medical treatment to help with withdrawal symptoms you may experience after giving up.

Read more about stopping smoking and stop smoking treatments.

Reducing your alcohol consumption

Regularly drinking alcohol above the maximum recommended limits can raise your blood pressure.

Alcohol is also high in calories, so you will gain weight if you drink regularly, which can further increase your blood pressure (see below).

Therefore, staying within the recommended levels is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. The recommends limits for alcohol consumption are:

  • 3-4 units a day for men
  • 2-3 units a day for women

Read more about alcohol units and tips on cutting down.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body which can raise your blood pressure. Find out if you need to lose weight with the BMI healthy weight calculator.

If you do need to lose weight, it is worth remembering that just losing a few pounds will make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall health. Get tips on losing weight safely.

Exercising

Being active and taking regular exercise will help keep your heart and blood vessels in good condition. Regular exercise can also help you lose weight and help lower your blood pressure.

Starting an exercise programme when you have angina can be challenging because physical activity may trigger the symptoms of an angina attack. However, the more you exercise, the less likely you will have an angina attack.

Low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming and cycling are recommended, whereas more strenuous activities, such as playing football and squash, are not.

Find out more about walking for health, swimming for fitness and the benefits of cycling.

Medical Review: June 11, 2013
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