As we age we become increasingly susceptible to a variety of health conditions, the most common of these being cardiac disease. You may doubt the possibility with great conviction, but if there is a chance, no matter how big or small, you need to keep yourself informed about the risks and symptoms. Angina refers to pain and discomfort in the chest area. This is the most common type of heart disease. It occurs when the blood flow to the heart muscles reduces. Angina is one of the symptoms of coronary artery disease. In individuals with this disease, the heart is unable to receive an adequate amount of oxygen-rich blood and this may result in chest pain. The discomfort in the chest can be described as a tight, squeezing or heavy sensation. Angina is also known as angina pectoris and is classified into two categories, stable and unstable. Stable angina is usually experienced when the individual exerts himself and it occurs as a recurring, lingering chest pain. Unstable angina refers to sudden pain or changes in the previous pattern of chest pain. This could be indicative of a heart attack. There is another type of angina that is quite rare. This is known as variant angina and it occurs when there is a spasm of the coronary artery. Angina is known to be a common condition but it may sometimes be difficult to differentiate it from other causes of chest pain. It is advisable to seek medical attention when any kind of unexplained chest pain is experienced.
The main symptoms of angina include pain or discomfort in the chest region. The pain may also extend to the shoulder, back, neck, arms or jaw. The individual may also experience symptoms such as nausea, sweating, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath and anxiety. Individuals with angina complain of a sensation of pressure or fullness in the middle of the chest. The symptoms may vary in intensity and duration. Changes in the pattern of pain must be reported to a doctor immediately. The most common type of angina is stable angina. This usually begins when the heart starts pumping harder such as when exercising. It tends to last for short periods of time and will subside even sooner if the individual rests or take appropriate medication. Sometimes angina may be similar to indigestion. Mental and emotional stress may contribute to angina.
Angina may be experienced differently by women. The pain tends to be sharper and pulsating. Symptoms such as nausea, abdominal discomfort and shortness of breath are also more likely to occur in women. Chest pain that continues for more than a few minutes or persists after taking medication and rest requires immediate medical attention. It could be a sign of an impending heart attack. Some of the other common symptoms of a heart attack include pain that radiates to the arm, shoulder, jaw and teeth, sweating and fainting.
Angina occurs when there is a decreased flow of blood to the heart muscles. The heart requires oxygen to function properly and this oxygen is supplied via the blood. Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of angina. The disease occurs when there is an accumulation of plaque or fatty deposits in the arteries. The need for oxygen increases when the heart pumps harder and hence angina is experienced mainly during these times. Stable angina occurs when there is physical exertion such as while climbing the stairs or walking. Smoking, cold temperatures, the consumption of a heavy meal and emotional stress can also lead to stable angina. Unstable angina may occur when there is a rupture of the plaque deposits in the arteries or when there is a blood clot. This can severely reduce the blood flow to the heart. Severe anemia may also trigger unstable angina. Rest and medication does not relieve unstable angina and if the blood flow is not improved soon, a heart attack can occur. Emergency treatment is required for unstable angina. Variant angina occurs when there is a narrowing of the artery due to a spasm.
There are certain factors that place an individual at a higher risk for developing angina. Smoking can cause damage to the artery walls and encourages cholesterol deposits. Therefore those who smoke may face problems in blood flow to the heart. Diabetic individuals are also more at risk for developing angina and heart disease. High blood pressure can accelerate the deposits of plaque in the arteries and hence can contribute to angina. High blood pressure may occur due to bad eating habits, stress, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. People with high levels of bad cholesterol or LDL may experience narrowing of the arteries. Other factors that increase the risk of angina include a family history of coronary disease, old age, obesity, stress and lack of exercise.
Treatment for angina includes various options such as medication, surgical procedures and lifestyle changes. The main aim of treatment is to reduce the occurrence of symptoms and also reduce their severity. This helps to lower the risk of heart attack. However, unstable angina requires immediate medical treatment and hospitalization. Medications for angina include aspirin which prevents clotting of the blood and allows the blood to flow more easily through narrow arteries. Nitrates may also be used to treat angina as they help to widen the blood vessels and relax the artery walls. This allows for increased blood flow to the heart. Doctors may advise patients to take a nitrate before performing any activity that usually causes angina. Beta blockers are also used to treat angina as they restrict the effects of epinephrine, which is a hormone that causes the heart to pump harder. They also help to relax the blood vessels. Another type of medication is statins which works by lowering cholesterol levels in the blood. It may also encourage re-absorption of the cholesterol deposits in the artery walls. Other medications for angina include calcium channel blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. All these medications should be taken only under medical supervision.
In some cases medical procedures and surgery may be necessary to treat angina. These help to reopen the affected arteries. Angioplasty or stenting is a procedure wherein a small balloon is placed inside the narrowed artery. This helps to widen the artery. Then a stent or a tiny wire mesh is inserted so that the artery stays open. This helps to promote better blood flow to the heart. This treatment is recommended when medications and lifestyle changes are not effective in preventing angina. Individuals with unstable angina often undergo angioplasty. A surgical procedure that is done in case of both stable and unstable angina is coronary artery bypass surgery. In this procedure a vein or artery from another part of the body is used to bypass the affected artery. This helps to improve the flow of blood to the heart.
For mild cases of angina, it is possible to obtain relief simply by making some lifestyle changes. These changes and modifications to your lifestyle and diet are absolutely essential in severe cases of angina too, but they will not suffice. If you do smoke, you need to kick the habit immediately and should also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Overweight individuals should work on shedding excess weight. Diabetics need to control their condition through proper medication, healthy diet and regular exercise. While some amount of physical activity is essential for your well being, avoid over exertion. Moderation is not just important when it comes to diets and eating habits, but also in the context of physical fitness routines. Over exertion can trigger angina. However light exercise such as brisk walking or aerobics is helpful in preventing angina. Also refrain from eating large meals. Stress can be a major factor in angina and heart disease and hence it is imperative to control it. Stress management can be done in various ways such as meditation, breathing exercises, massage therapy and yoga. Those who are more vulnerable to heart disease due to risk factors should seek advice from a doctor.
Herbal remedies are believed to provide relief to angina patients. However one should not use any herbs for treatment without consulting a doctor first. The herb bilberry is known to widen the blood vessels and thereby reduce blood pressure. Evening primrose is also known to bring down blood pressure and also prevents clot formation.
Proper diet is essential in preventing angina. Individuals receiving treatment for angina should avoid eating foods that contain saturated fats and which supply bad cholesterol to the body. The daily diet should contain plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fibrous foods and cereals. Fish is a healthy addition to the diet. Oily fish such as mackerel and salmon are especially beneficial as they supply the body with healthy fats. Consumption of red meat should be restricted. Lean chicken or turkey may be added to the diet. The intake of butter, sugar, chocolates and other sugary foods should also be restricted. It is better to avoid consuming alcohol as well as it could aggravate existing health problems. Paying close attention to the diet is greatly helpful in preventing future occurrences of angina.
The supplements L- arginine and L- carnitine are known to be beneficial in treating angina. These supplements help to reduce narrowing of the arteries and hence improve the flow of blood to the heart muscle. However before using either of these supplements as part of angina treatment, it is essential to discuss it with a doctor. It is possible that these supplements may interact with other medications and lead to serious side effects.