Angina Meds

Apr 8, 2014

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

I remember we danced to Hotel California by the Eagles. She was petite, had dark hair and was pretty. I went to the rest room and by the time I came back, she was dancing with someone else. This was my first and last blind date. I was working in Vancouver for that summer. My friend Bill had met a girl at a concert and set up a date, but only if he brought along someone for her friend. That was me. I thought the date was going okay too, up until the end of Hotel California. The evening continued swimmingly as I had to stay at the bar until close while Bill continued his date. I was really beginning to hate Hotel California, blind dates and heart ache. Because I stayed out late and had to take the bus back to UBC, I overslept the next morning. I didnt hear my friends banging on the door to wake me up to catch the ferry. We were all supposed to cram into the only car any of us owned and go spend the weekend in Victoria at one of the girls parents house. When I woke up, realized I was going to spend the weekend completely alone. I made some frantic phone calls, and I found I could still catch them. I just needed to jump on 6 different buses, a ferry and another bus and wait in front of the Bay Store in downtown Victoria. To add a little spice to my Amazing Race in BC you are never 5 minutes late for a ferry. You are just 4 hours early for the next one.

Out of tragedy and war can come opportunity and healing the healing of broken hearts. Just look at Alfred Nobel and nitroglycerin. Alfred Nobel was a great scientist and inventor in 1800s. One of his greatest inventions was dynamite which stabilized nitroglycerin. His inventions made him very wealthy, but he grew very concerned about all the war around him in the 1800s and how his inventions were being used to kill people. So in his will he left money to be given out the person who accomplished "the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the promotion of peace congresses." This turned in to the Nobel Peace Prize. Every year since 1901 the Nobel Prize has been awarded for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace.

In places like Alfred Nobels dynamite factories, people worked with nitroglycerin. The workers noticed they got awful headaches every Monday morning after being away from the factory for a few days. These headaches went away in a few hours. It was eventually determined that the headaches were caused by the nitroglycerin opening blood vessels in the brains of the workers. Opening up blood vessels in the brain can hurt, but if we open up blood vessels in the heart, we can make physiological heart ache go away. This type of pain is called angina.

You may hear your doctor call chest pain angina pectoris, but many people simply call this kind of heart ache angina. If you suddenly start experiencing chest pain, get to your doctor or the hospital as soon as possible. For those people that the doctor has diagnosed as having angina, she may give them a nitro-spray, or a nitro-patch. Both of these medications contain nitroglycerin, which helps open the blood vessels to the heart. Opening up blood vessels to the heart gets more blood and oxygen to the heart muscle and helps the pain go away. Even though both nitro-spray, and the nitro-patch contain nitroglycerin, they are used in different ways, and are used under different circumstances.

Nitro-spray is used at the first sign of angina, and should help the chest pain immediately. At the first sign of chest pain, sit down or recline, because the nitro-spray will probably make you dizzy. Dont shake the canister. Hold it in an upright position, and remove the plastic cover. Open your mouth, bring the canister as close as possible, and spray the nitro under or onto your tongue. Dont inhale the spray. If the pain persists, you can spray again in 5 minutes. If you need more than 3 sprays in 15 minutes, seek medical attention immediately. Most importantly, if your doctor has prescribed you nitro-spray, always carry it with you.

The nitro-patch works differently than the spray. With the nitro-patch, the nitroglycerin is absorbed slowly through the skin instead of through the mouth. It is designed to be used every day to prevent angina, where the spray is used to treat angina that is occurring now. To apply the patch, first wash your hands, then tear open the package. Hold the patch so that both brown lines are vertical and facing you. Bend the patch forward and back until you hear a light SNAP. Twist the patch to peel off its plastic backing, and avoid touching the backing. Apply the patch to a hairless area, such as the shoulders, back or hip. Unless your doctor tells you differently, you should only have the patch on for 12 hours, then it should be off for 12 hours. You should also rotate the various places you put the patch each day, to avoid irritating the skin.

Today, Alfred Nobels prizes still motivate and reward those who push forward the boundaries of science and medicine. Alfred Nobels own great invention, dynamite is still in use. And nitroglycerin, one of the main ingredients in dynamite is still helping peoples hearts and heart aches. Out of the tragedy of war, some good has come out Nobels fortune and nitroglycerin itself is helping to heal broken hearts.

In the grand scale, my blind date debacle hardly rises to tragedy, but the heart ache sure felt like a kick in the jewels at the time. My multi-bus race across Vancouver was exciting, but I made the ferry. The ferry was a huge ship to my prairie eyes and was a comfortable and enjoyable ride. However, as the ferry approached Mill Bay, it occurred to me this could still go sideways. My last 12 hours hadnt gone my way at all. During the bus ride to Victoria, I got more and more nervous. This was pre-cell phone, so I had no easy way to contact anyone. Would I be able to find the Bay in Victoria? Would anyone pick me up? If no one picked me up, then what? I didnt know Victoria and didnt have the money for a hotel. When I got off the bus, finding the Bay was remarkably easy. It looked just like the Bay in Winnipeg. So I stood there waiting to see how the fates were going to break my heart this time. I was busy vowing to myself that I would never, ever go on a blind date again. Suddenly a beautiful green Mercedes Benz pulled up to the curb. The girl whose parents house I was supposed to be staying at opened the passenger door. She simply said, Trevor, get in! She might as well have said, Theres plenty of room at the Hotel California, because the weekend and the song were saved.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

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The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.


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