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Angina is a common symptom of coronary heart disease experienced by approximately two million people in the UK. It is most commonly recognizable by a feeling of pain, heaviness or discomfort in your chest, which may even expand into your arms, neck, back, jaw or stomach. 

There are an estimated 96,000 new cases each year, affecting twice as many men as women. The increasing numbers of angina in the UK are mostly due to an ageing population. However, they can also be attributed to poor lifestyle choices.

If you suffer from chest pain, especially after a stressful exchangewith someone or after physical exercise, you may worry that you also have angina. In this article we seek to answer some common questions and misconceptions relating to angina and its treatment.

What is coronary heart disease?

Angina is often a symptom of coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is the most common type of heart disease and can also cause heart attacks. It affects the coronary arteries on the surface of the heart, which supply the heart muscle with oxygen and blood. 

Those who suffer from CHD have a build-up of fat inside the walls of the arteries, narrowing them so that less blood can flow through. This can leave the heart with an insufficient blood supply, especially when it requires more oxygen, like during times of strain or stress.

How would Iknow if Ihad angina?

Angina typically feels like a heaviness, dull ache, or tightness in the chest. The feeling may expand into other parts of your body, like your arms, neck or back. It is usually triggered by several stress factors, including:

  • Emotional upset
  • Exercise
  • After eating a big meal
  • Cold weather

At times, angina symptoms can be mistaken for indigestion.

Angina symptoms can be like the symptoms of a heart attack, which is why it is important not to ignore chest pain or pain in the arms, neck and back. The symptoms of angina normally go away with rest when your blood pressure has come down and your heart no longer requires as much oxygen to be pumped to it. Angina symptoms can also be brought down with glyceryl trinitrate medicine – a medicine which you spray under your tongue.

If rest doesn’t alleviate your pain, you should call a doctor as you might be experiencing the onset of a heart attack. A heart attack can be fatal, so don’t hesitate to call 999 immediately in persistent pain or discomfort.

If your symptoms are mild but you’re experiencing them for the first time, it’s a good idea to go and see your GP, or book a consultation with a cardiologist in your area.

Angina and the risk of heart attack

Angina symptoms don’t necessarily indicate permanent damage to the heart, just as CHD only affects the arteries. However, because angina is often linked to CHD, it is important to know that those suffering from angina are at a higher risk of a heart attack.

If your symptoms become more frequent and severe or occur after only light exercise or even in times of rest, you should seek medical attention. 

Can Ilive a normal life if I am diagnosed with angina?

Many people that suffer from angina can live a largely normal life. However, this is subject to them following their doctors’ instructions and adjusting their lifestyle accordingly. 

If you’re worried you might have angina or might be at risk of developing CHD, consider making healthy lifestyle choices to prevent your condition from worsening:

  • Stop smoking
  • Don’t drink excessively
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid major stress factors and learn stress management
  • Obtain a healthy weight

Have you experienced symptoms of angina?

If you are unsure whether chest pain following exercise or a stressful experience was a symptom of angina, it is worthwhile checking with a cardiologist in your area. Private cardiology often offers quicker results, before angina symptoms become severe.

At Venturi Cardiology, we can put your mind at ease with rapid access to diagnostics and expert advice. Get in touch with us today if you have any queries about angina or heart health more generally.