Did you ever happen to experience tightness in your chest? Something feels like burning, squeezing or suffocating? There are plenty of reasons for such conditions, for example, angina. Angina itself is not a disease. Instead, it’s a symptom of a disease related to the coronary artery. The tightness, pain or discomfort occurs when a muscle of the heart isn’t getting the usual amount of oxygen because it isn’t getting enough blood. On its own, this is not life-threatening. However, if the occurrence of angina is frequent, it’s a strong indicator of something going wrong with the heart.
Causes of Angina
Most angina originates from atherosclerosis; a condition where the artery walls become hardened and narrowed because of fatty buildup (also known as plaques). The plaque buildup dramatically reduces the blood supply to the muscle of the heart, thus triggering angina. There also could be other cardiovascular diseases that may lower the oxygen supply of the heart muscle.
Type of Angina
There are several types of angina.
Stable Or Chronic Angina – This type of angina is not life-threatening and less severe. However, it’s a strong indication of possible heart failure or stroke. Stable angina happens when the heart has to work above its normal work for a prolonged period. The perfect example of such a condition is when you are doing exercise. It follows a regular pattern. Generally, rest and/or medication will alleviate the symptom.
Unstable Angina – This is a dangerous type of angina and requires urgent treatment. It’s usually a sign of a heart attack or a near-future heart attack. Unstable angina may get triggered without any obvious reason. It’s quite unpredictable and more painful than others.
Variant And microvascular Angina – Variant or Prinzmeta’s angina and Microvascular angina are a rare type of angina that can occur at rest. These can occur without any underlying cardiovascular disease as well. In most cases, it happens when the blood vessels become narrower abnormally, thus reducing oxygen supply to the heart muscle. Proper medication and certain lifestyle changes can alleviate the symptom.
Symptoms of Angina
While there are different types of angina, most of them have some common symptoms.
a) Chest discomfort or pain. It may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach.
b) Dull pain or “heavy” feeling in the chest.
c) Chest pain or discomfort that may be identical to indigestion. However, it makes you feel unwell overall.
d) Feeling dizzy, sweaty, sick, breathless, light-headed or unwell in general with pain or discomfort in the chest.
How is Angina Diagnosed?
If you are facing angina, then it’s important to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Based on your symptoms and pattern, your doctor will suggest what to do next. Here are some of the common tests doctors suggest for proper diagnosis.
EKG – An EKG record keeps track of your heart rhythm. It tracks how fast your heartbeats. It can also identify problems or damages in different regions of the heart.
Blood Tests – This may show up some abnormality if there’s any damage in your heart. The blood test is also useful for getting information about your overall health.
Stress Test – This test helps the healthcare provider to see what changes take place when your heart is under stress. Generally, exercise or medicine is used for this test. For more information on this test, you should ask a healthcare provider.
Echocardiogram – It’s a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to look at the structure of the heart, it’s movement and related blood vessels.
Cardiac Catheterization – This is a method that takes the help of x-ray and dye for tracking the blood flow in your coronary arteries. This offers a deeper insight into your heart condition and helps the healthcare provider how to treat your condition.
Can We Prevent Angina?
Unfortunately, heart diseases are not reversible so easily. However, there are steps you can take right now in the right direction to delay the artery narrowing and in cases, even reverse it. Here are some of the steps you should consider.
Control high blood pressure
Maintain healthy cholesterol level
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
Control your blood glucose if you have diabetes
Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
How to Treat Angina
Angina and related heart problems are treatable. In most cases. doctors prescribe several medications for a long term solution. In serious cases, surgery may be necessary. Here are some of the common prescriptions doctors prescribe for treating angina and related cardiovascular diseases.
Angina is generally a warning sign prior to something risky taking place like a heart attack or stroke. In order to reduce the risk, these are the medications that doctors commonly suggest.
Aspirin – Preventing blood clots
Statins – Reducing blood cholesterol level
ACE inhibitors – Reducing blood pressure
Surgery is necessary when medicine and other methods are not sufficient enough to prevent angina and a related heart condition.
The 2 main types of surgery for angina are:
1) Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) -A section of the spare blood vessel is taken from a different region of the body. Then, it is used to create a bypass for blood around the blockage or narrowed-down section of the artery.
2) Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) – The narrowed section of the artery is widened again with the help of a tiny tube called a stent. Depending on the type of artery and plaque, the stent is either permanently put there or just used to widen the artery.
Both of them are effective similarly. The best option depends on your situation. If surgery is necessary, have an elaborate discussion with your doctor or surgeon about your options. There might be some necessary medication after the surgery.
Hopefully, the aforementioned information will help you become aware of your heart condition. It’s high time you adopted heart-boosting habits. If you are having heart pain, you should start keeping a track of it. The info will be also useful during diagnosis.
If you experience any of the pain or other symptoms and they last more than 5 minutes, don’t delay. Seek immediate medical attention. You could be having a heart attack. I do hope you find this article helpful. If you wish, feel free to leave a comment.