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What Should You Know About Angina?

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What Should You Know About Angina?

Cardiac Sciences | Posted on 02/24/2023 by RBH



Imagine you are sprinting to keep up with your dog and the chest pain strikes suddenly. It feels as if something heavy is sitting on your chest or squeezing it. As the discomfort continues with breathlessness, nausea, or pain in your neck, arm, or jaw, you begin to wonder. Am I having a heart attack?

It can be, but when in doubt, call an emergency number to get immediate assistance. But if you sit down, relax and the symptoms go away within a few seconds or minutes, you are probably experiencing angina.

Angina isn't an imminent medical emergency unlike a heart attack, but it can surely set you up for one. We will discuss everything in detail about angina in this blog so make sure to read it till the end.

What is angina?

Angina also known as angina pectoris is a chest pain that stems from reduced blood flow to the heart. It is not an illness but a primary symptom of coronary artery disease. It causes chest pain or discomfort that occurs in the heart muscle when it doesn’t get sufficient oxygen-rich blood. It feels like pressure on the chest. Some people can experience angina pain in the shoulders, neck, arms, jaw, or back.

It generally occurs because of ischemia, primarily when there is a blockage in one or more coronary arteries. Angina is not a life-threatening condition, however, it can look like a heart attack, and might indicate heart disease.

So, if you experience chest pain anytime, don’t mistake it for indigestion or gastric problems, receive clinical attention immediately.

What types of angina are there?

There are four types of angina which are:

  • Stable angina

It is a common type of angina and occurs when the heart has to work harder when doing something like walking uphill and goes away on its own. If you have stable angina, usually, you will know that it is about to happen and that the pain or discomfort is similar to what you have experienced before.

  • Unstable angina

This type is quite different from stable angina and occurs even when you are at rest. It can last longer and you might feel the intensity more. There are chances that your symptoms mightn’t get better even after taking the medication.

  • Vasospastic angina

This type is very rare and is also known as a coronary artery spasm. You might experience this type during the night mainly when you are at rest. It occurs when coronary artery blood supply and oxygen to the heart goes into spasm.

  • Microvascular angina

This type also known as cardiac syndrome X occurs when you are active, for instance exercising with heavy weights and or are stressed and heavily anxious. You will experience pain by spasm in the smallest coronary artery limiting the flow of blood.

Are angina symptoms for both men and women the same?

Yes, both men and women experience similar symptoms of angina. The general symptoms include pain in the back, jaw, or neck, and chest pain. If you are experiencing chest pain often, then observe these symptoms:

  • Chest tightening
  • Chest pressure
  • The feeling of squeezing in the chest
  • Heaviness in the chest
  • Burning or aching in the chest

What causes angina attacks?

One of the primary causes of angina attack is coronary heart disease. It happens when the arteries supplying blood to your heart muscle with oxygen and blood are blocked or narrowed by a fatty substance known as plaque. It reflects that there is less flow of blood to your heart muscle which causes angina symptoms. Here are some common other angina causes:

  • Coronary microvascular disease- It is more common among women than men and leads to damage to the tiny blood vessels wall that branch from the coronary arteries.
  • Coronary artery spasm- Coronary arteries constantly tighten and then open up and these spasms cause limitation of blood flow to the heart temporarily.

How is angina diagnosed?

Your healthcare expert will initiate diagnosis depending on the symptoms and after understanding the risk factors. The doctor will first order an electrocardiogram to identify what additional testing is required to confirm the diagnosis. Here are the tests that your doctor might order:

  • Standard stress test- This test is ordered when your ECG is normal and you can exercise easily. It is performed with a treadmill, bicycle, or other exercise machines to get you moving. It will help the doctor to understand whether the coronary arteries are supplying blood well to the heart when you work harder or not.
  • Chest X-ray- Your doctor can view the condition of your heart and lungs with this test.
  • Blood tests- These tests will help the doctor understand if there are certain heart enzymes present in the bloodstream as it damages the heart muscle.
  • Echocardiogram- It is ordered to create the heart images to determine the flow of blood through the heart.

How is angina treated?

Your doctor will follow the treatment problem for the underlying heart disease that’s causing your angina. The purpose of treatment is to improve the flow of blood to the heart and reduce complications. Hence, your doctor will give you a physical evaluation and perform testing to understand the condition and determine the suitable treatment for you.

The common treatment options for angina are:

  • Nitrates or calcium channel blockers for better blood flow to the heart. It helps you relax and widens the blood vessels
  • Beta-blockers for slowing down your heart rate
  • Blood thinners or antiplatelet medications for preventing blood clots
  • Statins- It helps in managing your cholesterol levels and stabilizing plaque

Cardiac procedures

When medications aren’t working well, then your doctor might order surgery to open clogged arteries. The surgery recommendations usually involve coronary artery bypass grafting or bypass surgery and enhanced external counterpulsation.

Lifestyle changes

Your doctor will ask you to make the following lifestyle changes:

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat healthy diet
  • Stay away from stress by involving measures like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing
  • Exercise regularly
  • Make doctor visits regularly

Conclusion

Angina is one of the common symptoms of heart illness. Usually, angina can be managed by obtaining information on the triggers and understanding when to take medication or rest. But sometimes, angina can indicate a heart attack. So, you must be mindful of when to call for emergency assistance. Speak to a cardiologist about angina; understand the difference between stable and unstable angina. Know about the symptoms that require emergency care and seek immediate help.

FAQs

Is angina dangerous?

Angina is a chest pain caused by a reduced flow of blood to the heart muscles. Usually, it is not dangerous, but it can indicate the high chances of heart or stroke.

Is angina curable?

Yes, angina is curable and on-treatment can help prevent angina attacks and reduce the risk of issues like heart attacks.