Angina occurs when your heart doesn’t receive enough oxygen-rich blood. The resulting pain or discomfort is owed to an underlying cause, which is why angina itself is not necessarily a condition, but a sign of one. Most often, angina is a sign of coronary heart disease. There are different varieties of angina:
- Angina Pectoris (stable angina)–occurs during strain
- Unstable Angina–usually occurs at rest and indicates an emergency
- Variant (Prinzmetal’s) Angina–occurs during rest
- Microvascular Angina–lasts much longer than regular forms of angina, sometimes as long as 30 minutes
Pain in the chest is the most obvious sign of angina, but you may also feel pain in your jaw, neck, back, shoulders, or arms. It’s best for these symptoms to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. A doctor will be able to determine if the angina is stable or not. If your angina is unstable, it could lead to a heart attack.
If you any feel any chest pain at all you should contact a healthcare provider. Unstable angina may require immediate/emergency medical care. The doctor’s evaluation will include a medical exam, your family history, a review of your symptoms and risk factors.
Angina is not a disease in and of itself, but a symptom of one. Therefore, the treatment of the symptom will be the treatment of the underlying disease. Possible treatments include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Medicinal treatments
- Cardiac procedures
- Cardiac rehab
Your aftercare will be determined by whatever treatments are deemed appropriate for your condition.
What Can I Do About Angina?
Don’t give in to angina. You can change your way of life and lower your chances of having angina attacks. Keep a record of when your angina occurs so you will know what brings these attacks on. Once you know what brings on angina make some changes that will decrease the change of angina from occurring. A few simple steps can help you feel more comfortable every day:
- Learn to relax and manage stress.
- Avoid extreme temperatures.
- Avoid strenuous activities that bring on angina/know how far you can go before angina occurs.
- Don’t be afraid to use your nitroglycerin. You will not harm yourself by using nitroglycerin.
- Call your doctor for an appointment if your angina pattern changes.
- Call your doctor if you cannot control your angina.
Is “angina” just another term for a heart attack?
No, it isn’t. Angina pain is merely a sign that your heart isn’t getting enough blood at that moment. Heart attacks occur when the heart muscle has been deprived of oxygen-rich blood for too long, resulting in damage or even death of a part of the heart. Angina can be a useful sign of increased risk of a heart attack.