Angina Symptoms & Treatment
Often called a warning sign angina is a pain that is felt in the chest and originates from problems with the heart muscle. It tends to be more common in men than in women and can be termed either stable or unstable.
What Causes Angina?Angina is caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries which are the vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood which keeps the tissues oxygenated and provides the vital nutrients to the tissue that are contained in the blood.These arteries can become narrowed by the presence of ‘plaques’ which are fatty substances that collect and grow in size over time. The narrowing causes a reduction in blood supply particularly when the heart muscle needs to work harder such as when exercising, and struggles to cope without its needs being fulfilled resulting in pain being experienced.Plaques, or known medically as atheromas, develop due to lifestyle choices such as smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise.
Signs and Symptoms of AnginaAngina is experienced as a pain in the chest, often brought on by physical exertion. This can be very severe and can temporarily prevent the person from moving, speaking or breathing. It can last for several minutes and pain can spread down the arms, especially the left arm, in the neck, throat and back.
Diagnosing AnginaAngina can be diagnosed by visiting your GP who will perform an examination and take a full medical history. The doctor will usually take some blood tests to check levels of cholesterol, enzymes and anaemia which are all related to the occurrence of angina.Normally, an electrocardiogram (ECG), will be required which monitors the electrical activity in the heart, this will be taken at rest and during exercise and the results compared.Sometimes, especially in severe cases an angiography will be needed which examines the function of the coronary arteries using dye injected into the vessels and x-rays.
Treating AnginaThe best treatment for angina is to adjust lifestyle and remove high fats from the diet, stop smoking, increase physical activity, reduce blood pressure and lower stress levels.The use of glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) will help to reduce pain and lower the workload of the heart by relaxing the vessels involved. It can be taken orally as a spray or tablets, and side-effects and dosages should be discussed with each individual patient.As cholesterol plays an important role in the development of angina, one of a group of drugs called ‘statins’ may be prescribed in order to help control cholesterol levels in the blood helping to reduce the growth of the plaques that block the coronary arteries.Drugs such as aspirin that help to reduce the likelihood of thickening of the blood or clots from developing may be advised to help the blood flow around the heart and through the arteries remain smooth and fluid.Beta-blockers may also prove useful as they aim to prevent the action of adrenalin and its effects on the heart helping to maintain a regular and rhythmic heart rate.
Preventing AnginaThe easiest way to prevent angina developing is to lead a healthy life style free from nicotine, a diet low in fat and to take regular exercise that encourages the heart muscle to work harder and strengthen itself.If you have been diagnosed with angina, further attacks may be prevented or decreased in severity by ensuring advice from the doctor is followed and medications are taken when necessary. Introducing a regular pattern of exercise, starting slowly and gradually building up to a more strenuous activity will help to strengthen the muscle and increase the amount of oxygen supplied to the heart.
Angina is a potentially life threatening complaint and it must be in vestigated and treated by a medical professional. Any type of chest pain experienced should be reported to your GP so that investigations can begin.