Making lifestyle changes is the most effective way to prevent getting 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 these goals 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, which are three of the most effective ways of preventing angina and reducing the risk of a heart attack and stroke.
Eating an unhealthy diet that is high in fat will make your atherosclerosis worse and increase your risk of developing a heart attack or stroke.
Continuing to eat high fat foods will cause more fatty plaques to build-up in your arteries. This is because fatty foods contain cholesterol. There are two main types of cholesterol:
- low-density lipoprotein (LDL) - is mostly made up of fat plus a small amount of protein; this type of cholesterol can block your arteries so it is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’
- high-density lipoprotein (HDL) - is mostly made up of protein plus a small amount of fat; this type of cholesterol can reduce a blockage in your arteries so it is often referred to as ‘good cholesterol’
There are also two types of fat - saturated and unsaturated. Avoid foods that contain saturated fats because they will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood. Foods high in saturated fat include:
- meat pies
- sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
- 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 that are high in unsaturated fat include:
- oily fish
- nuts and seeds
- sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil
Read more about healthy eating and facts about fat.
Smoking is a major risk factor for both heart attacks and strokes because it causes atherosclerosis and raises your blood pressure.
If you decide to stop smoking, your GP will be able to refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking 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 (7am to 11pm). The specially trained helpline staff will be able to 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 any withdrawal symptoms that you may experience after giving up.
For more information about giving up smoking, see treatment for quitting smoking and stop smoking.
High blood pressure
Persistent high blood pressure can put both your arteries and your heart under extra strain, increasing your risk of developing a heart attack or stroke.
High blood pressure can often be reduced by eating a healthy diet, moderating your consumption of alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and taking regular exercise.
The dietary advice above also applies if you have high blood pressure. In addition, you should cut down on the amount of salt in your food and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Salt raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. You should aim to eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day, which is about a teaspoonful. Find out more about how to cut down on salt.
Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables, has been proven to help lower blood pressure. 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. Find out more about getting your 5 A Day.
Regularly drinking alcohol above the limits recommended by NHS will raise your blood pressure. 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
Find out how many units are in your favourite tipple, track your drinking over time and get tips on cutting down.
Alcohol is also high in calories, so you will gain weight if you drink regularly. Being overweight will also increase your blood pressure. Find out how many calories are in popular drinks.
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 shed some 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.
Being active and taking regular exercise will lower your blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition. Regular exercise can also help you to lose weight which will help lower your blood pressure.
Starting an exercise a programme when you have angina can be challenging because physical activity may trigger the symptoms of an angina attack. However, the more you exercise you do, the less likely it is that you will have an angina attack.
Low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming and cycling are recommended. More strenuous activities, such as playing football and squash, are not recommended.
Find out more about walking for health, swimming for fitness and the benefits of cycling.
Read more about preventing high blood pressure.