A ngina can occur when the heart is not getting enough oxygen. This
is usually because the blood supply to the heart is blocked or because the heart is being
overworked and therefore needs more oxygen than usual. The heart can usually function
normally at rest but not when physically exerted.
What to look for
pain that is crushing,
constricting, strangling, suffocating, sharp, or burning
It is normally felt in the
chest but may also occur in other areas such as the jaw or abdomen. Location and specific
sensations vary from person to person but are usually consistent from one attack to the
pain that occurs with
exertion or excitement and recedes with rest.
pain usually only lasts for
a few minutes
shortness of breath, anxiety, palpitations, nausea, or light-headedness
that may or may not be associated with an angina attack.
patients who have had
angina attacks may go on to have full blown heart attacks and vice versa
Of the many types of angina,
stable, or classical, angina, triggered by exertion and receding with rest is the most
If you have stable angina,
you should be able to predict what sort of activity will bring on an attack. Another type,
unstable angina, is a more acute condition; it occurs unpredictably, even during rest, and
should be interpreted as a warning sign of more serious heart trouble.
Alone, angina causes no
permanent damage because the heart is only temporarily deprived of oxygen. But if your
angina worsens, you should know that you are at a greater risk of heart attack. Be
especially concerned if you develop unstable angina, and consult a doctor.
The main underlying cause of
angina is coronary artery disease which describes the disease which the arteries become
blocked by fatty deposits and blood is prevented from flowing through them. Angina can
also result from other diseases that put exertion upon the heart unnecessarily, such as
anaemia, aortic valve disease (see heart disease), heart arrhythmias, and hyperthyroidism
(see thyroid problems).
Stable angina is sometimes
called "exertional" angina because it is triggered by activities that make the
heart beat rapidly such as physical activity, such as heavy lifting, sexual activity to
eating a large meal.
Other triggers are emotional
excitement cold weather, both of which stimulate the heart.
Certain risk factors for
heart disease and coronary artery disease make the development of angina more likely.
Drugs may alleviate angina
symptoms, but fundamental changes in diet and lifestyle are an important part of any
angina treatment program. Before taking any drug, review its properties and your medical
history carefully with your Doctor and Pharmacist.
Many drugs should not be
mixed with other drugs or natural medicines, and you also need to be sure your Doctor
knows of any pre-existing medical conditions you may have.
If you have angina, your
doctor will undoubtedly mention the importance of an overall healthy lifestyle that
includes proper diet, exercise, weight management, and no smoking.
Most angina patients also
take prescribed medication. There are three main classes of angina drugs
Physicians often use a
combination of these to treat angina.
If drug therapy does not work
Angioplasty or bypass surgery may be considered. Angioplasty, a catheter technique that
widens blocked arteries, has become a relatively routine procedure. Bypass surgery, which
diverts blood flow around clogged arteries, is reserved for very severe cases.