If you are suffering from chest pain, it could well be angina. Contrary to what some people believe, angina is not a disease, but rather it is a symptom. Angina is a tightness, squeezing, pressure, or pain, and this happens when the heart muscle doesn’t receive as much oxygen as it needs. Very often, this is the result of ischemia, which is when one or more of the coronary arteries becomes narrower or gets blocked and is often a symptom of coronary heart disease.
On its’ own, angina is not life threatening, but is a sign of heart disease and can resemble the feelings of a heart attack.
There are different types of angina, one of which is called stable angina and this occurs when the heart is working harder and faster than usual, such as when undertaking exercise or running to catch a train. It usually lasts for about five minutes and the symptoms can often be relieved simply by rest or by medication. It can occur quite regularly, and one might experience it for years.
Another form of angina is unstable angina, and this usually occurs when resting, and it does not follow a regular pattern. It is usually caused by atherosclerosis when a blockage prevents blood from reaching the heart. The pain often lasts for longer than five minutes, and it can be the forerunner of a heart attack.
There is also microvascular angina which affects the smallest of the coronary arteries, and as well as pain in the chest one might also experience shortness of breath, fatigue, and problems sleeping. This can last longer than ten minutes and may go on for over half an hour.
Another form of angina is variant angina which is quite rare. It can often happen when resting at around midnight or early the following morning and is a spasm in the coronary arteries. This may be caused by stress, medicines, smoking or use of cocaine.
In either males or females, angina can result from coronary heart disease or from micro vascular disease (MVD) but MVD affects females more than males. In females, in addition to a sharp pain, there may also be nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue.
Angina is treated to reduce pain, prevent symptoms and reduce the risk of a heart attack Changes to lifestyle can make a difference, and these include stopping smoking, getting regular exercise, weight loss, and having a well-balanced diet. Learning how to deal with stress is also very useful.
Prescription medications include nitrates which help to relax and widen the blood vessels. They may also include beta-blockers, oral antiplatelet medication, anti-coagulants, calcium channel blockers, enzyme inhibitors, and statins which help to lower cholesterol. Other medications which help to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, slow the heart rate, relax blood vessels, and prevent blood clots may also help.
In some cases, a surgical procedure may be necessary and at Venturi Cardiology we can help with a pre-operative diagnosis for bypass surgery. A coronary artery bypass grafting is a procedure in which the surgeon takes a healthy artery or vein from another part of the body and uses it to bypass narrowed arteries on the heart. Another possible treatment is the installation of a stent which is a mesh-like metal tube which is placed in an artery or vein in order to help keep it open. A pre-operative diagnosis for bypass surgery will help to decide the best course of action in any individual case.
Angina can be caused by a number of different things including stress, smoking, overuse of alcohol or recreational drugs, lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet, exposure to pollution such as in the workplace, obesity, diabetes, low blood pressure, anaemia, and also as a result of genetics. At Venturi Cardiology our expert consultants are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of heart conditions. If you are experiencing any type of chest pain or any of the symptoms above, then make an appointment to see one of our consultants.