If we check the list of diseases that cause disability and death, we will find that heart disease occupies the top spot. To a large extent, it is coronary heart disease – among the many different forms of heart disease – that accounts for the high figure. In fact, coronary heart disease is the primary factor in practically all the cases of myocardial infarction (heart attack) that strike without warning, often ending in death.
But in some instances of coronary heart disease, symptoms result from a gradual decrease in the supply of blood rather than from a sudden occurrence. In such cases of gradual decrease of blood flow, a series of brief paroxysmal attacks of chest pain often occurs. This condition is called angina pectoris.
In angina pectoris, the onslaught of pain often takes place after the individual has engaged in some strenuous activity which places extra requirements of work on the functioning heart. A normally-functioning heart is able to meet the extra demands brought on by the strenuous exertion by beating faster and more forcefully; more blood is sent out in this way. However, with a decreased flow of coronary blood, the heart eventually goes beyond its capacity for endurance.
With a restricted supply of oxygen and energy-giving food, the heart can perform a very limited amount of work; reflex pain then develops which often centers below the sternum (breastbone) and radiates to the left shoulder and down to the left arm. Each paroxysm of pain usually lasts only a few minutes. The pain is relieved as the affected individual rests, since rest lessens the demand for extra work by the heart.
Certain physical or emotional stress or shocks are the usual causes of the symptoms of angina pectoris. In many cases, the painful episode takes place during or just after a heavy meal. One of the medications available for the treatment of angina pectoris is the drug that goes by the generic name “dipyridamole” (known by the brand name Persantine of Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals).
As an antianginal agent, dipyridamole is prescribed for the prevention of attacks of angina pectoris. However, dipyridamole is generally used for chronic treatment of angina pectoris, rather than for the immediate pain of an attack. In addition to this, dipyridamole may be prescribed for the treatment of cerebrovascular accident (stroke). When used for angina pectoris, dipyridamole works by increasing blood flow to the heart muscle, in the process providing the heart with sufficient oxygen.
Some of the possible side effects of dipyridamole include headache, nausea, dizziness, mild stomach upset, weakness, and flushing. As for drug interactions, dipyridamole may interact with blood-thinning drugs (anticoagulants). Aspirin, for example, has an effect on the platelets (a component of blood involved in clotting) much like that in dipyridamole; when taken together, they may increase the chances of bleeding as a result of loss of platelet effectiveness.
The usual dose of dipyridamole is 50 milligrams 3 times a day. Also note that it may take 2 to 3 months for dipyridamole to exert a therapeutic effect on angina pectoris.
1. “Dipyridamole-oral index”, on MedicineNet.com – http://www.medicinenet.com/dipyridamole-oral/article.htm
2. “Angina Pectoris” – http://www.healthscout.com/ency/68/127/main.html
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