Angina, or angina pectoris, is a form of chest discomfort caused by a decreased blood oxygen supply to an area of the heart muscle. The most common cause is a narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries because of atherosclerosis. The onset of angina often occurs during or immediately after exertion. Other triggers may include emotional stress, heavy meals, extreme cold or heat, alcohol, or cigarette smoking. In times like these, the heart muscle necessitates more blood oxygen than the narrowed arteries can give. Don’t get confused— angina is not necessarily the beginning of a heart attack; most of the time the pain is only temporary. When it becomes less temporary is when you should worry about a heart attack. Rarely does angina leave permanent damage. Angina simply means that there are other underlying issues of coronary heart disease. People with angina experience episodes that should be very similar in length; when they become more varied, that is when you should be worried about your risk for a heart attack. Recognizing these symptoms is the first step to being able to do any kind of treatment. Let’s take a look at both of these.
Types of Angina
Stable Angina – Stable angina is brought on after extreme physical exertion. The blood vessels supplying the heart become narrowed and so they restrict blood supply. The pain lasts for only a few minutes, and goes away with rest, but if the exertion is continued, the pain will likely continue.
Unstable Angina – Unstable angina means that the pain will come on with only a little bit of effort, say for example, after taking a few steps. This type of angina occurs when one of the blood vessels supplying the heart becomes so narrowed that your risk for a heart attack greatly increases. If sudden chest pain occurs, or you find it coming on with less and less exertion, seek medical attention.
Variant Angina – This is a type of angina that is very rare and occurs without warning: what happens is that a coronary artery spasms and it can lead to abnormal heart rhythms.
Symptoms of Angina
Being able to distinguish between a heart attack and angina can be difficult, except angina goes away within 1- 15 minutes and a heart attack does not go away for 4-6 hours. Those who experience angina may have different symptoms than the next person, but this is ok. However, everyone feels a pressing or squeezing pain in the chest under the breast bone; sometimes this pressure can be felt in the upper abdomen, neck, shoulders, arms, jaw, or back. The intensity may range from mild to severe. It is usually relieved within a few minutes or after taking a medication. The symptoms that vary only accompany the chest discomfort. They include:
Angina Pectoris Treatment
The treatment for angina can include medication and/or surgery.