What is Angina?
Angina, also known as angina pectoris, is a condition in which not enough oxygenated blood reaches the heart. Since the heart receives an insufficient amount of oxygen, chest pains occur. Pain may also be felt in the arms, shoulders, neck, or back.
Angina indicates the presence of a heart problem. In most cases, angina is a symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD). This is a condition in which the coronary arteries become narrower. Blood clots can also form.
What Causes Angina?
A reduction in blood flow to the heart results in angina pain. As a result of less blood flow, not enough oxygen is transported to the heart. As mentioned above, coronary artery disease is the leading cause of angina.
Immediate causes of chest pain consist of: eating heavy meals, smoking, stress, and pushing the body too hard in terms of physical activity. There are many more causes of angina depending on the type and severity of it.
Types of Angina
The two main types of angina are stable angina and unstable angina. Stable angina is the most common and the easiest to handle. It can be controlled with rest and medication. Stable angina also tends to follow a pattern making it predictable.
On the other hand, unstable angina is unpredictable and could occur at any time. Often, unstable angina cannot be controlled with just rest and medication. Emergency help will be needed.
Angina is not either stable or unstable. There are many more categories that angina could fall under. The type of angina and severity of it varies per person.
What are the Symptoms of Angina?
Angina itself is a symptom of a greater health condition. Undergoing angina usually leads to much further testing for other health concerns. For example, unstable angina usually leads to a heart attack. Surgical procedures may also be necessary.
In general, people suffering from angina experience tightness in the chest. Some other symptoms of angina are: tiredness, cramping, difficulty breathing, indigestion, and heartburn.
What is the Difference Between an Angina Attack and a Heart Attack?
Angina attacks do not damage the heart permanently whereas heart attacks do. However, angina can lead to a heart attack.
What Does Left Chest Pain Indicate?
Many people panic at the thought of chest pain on the left side. The first thing that comes to mind is a heart attack! However, left chest pain does not always indicate a cardiac attack. Causes of chest pain on the left side are: heartburn, gas, and acidity.
What Does Right Side Chest Pain Indicate?
Chest pain on the right side can occur for a number of reasons. Most commonly, right side chest pain indicates the presence of gallstones. Other causes of pain on the right side could be: liver problems, pneumonia, stress, hepatitis, or problems with digestive system.
Who is at Risk of Suffering from Angina
As mentioned, angina pain is a symptom of a serious heart disease. In most cases it is coronary artery disease. In general, risk factors for coronary artery disease, and thus angina include:
- Age: The older one is, the greater the risk.
- Family: Heart conditions can be passed down from family members.
- Weight: Having an unhealthy weight, for example being overweight or obese, puts one at a greater risk.
- Poor Lifestyle Choices: Bad eating habits along with little physical activity put one at a larger risk.
- Substance Abuse: Smoking, alcohol consumption, and using drugs, puts one in greater danger.
There are many other risk factors that could lead to angina and/or heart disease.
How can Angina be Treated?
The first step taken in angina treatment is to determine the underlying cause. Once the cause is found, treatment proceeds. Lifestyle changes, medication, and/or surgical procedure are a part of treatment.
The most common medication used to treat angina is nitroglycerin. Nitroglycerin helps relieve angina by widening the blood vessels. Many other classes of drugs such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers can also be used.