Angina is a pain in the chest, experienced when there is a decrease in the flow of blood to the heart. It feels similar to a heart attack and is often a precursor to Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), being more of a symptom of CAD than a disease by itself.
Currently, the incidence of angina worldwide is alarmingly high, at over 50 million people developing this situation, particularly adult men and women above the age of 40. It typically feels like a tightness around the heart, or a heavy object placed on the chest and requires immediate medical attention, to ensure proper and timely treatment.
The blood vessels that supply healthy, oxygen-rich blood to the heart are the coronary arteries. When they become clogged with fatty deposits called plaques or they suffer from extreme pressure, they narrow in width, hence giving rise to a throbbing pain in the chest.
There are three types of angina namely:
1. Stable Angina:
This common type of chest pain is caused due to arduous physical activity that in turn exerts the blood vessels and heart muscles and usually diminishes with ample rest.
2. Unstable Angina:
When fat accumulations in the heart form a blood clot, it leads to a sudden drop in blood flow to the heart known as unstable angina. This condition is harmful, thereby requiring emergency treatment and does not improve with rest.
3. Prinzmetal’s Angina (Variant Angina):
This category of angina is very rare and is the result of emotional stress as well as excessive use of tobacco and other dangerous drugs such as cocaine. It causes a narrowing of the coronary artery, decreasing the amount of blood transported to the heart and severe pain in the chest.
Common risk factors of angina include having diabetes, high blood pressure, a family history of cardiac ailments, surplus body weight, sedentary lifestyle, high-stress levels and addictive usage of tobacco.
Angina can subsequently result in difficulty in breathing, increased intensity of chest pain and CAD. Hence, it is recommended to promptly seek professional medical aid, to remedy the condition and guarantee complete recovery. Also Read: Heart Attack And The Hidden Secrets For Survival
The characteristic symptoms of angina comprise:
- Pain the chest, along with a burning, inching sensation
- Heavy breathing with challenges in normal respiratory processes
- Exhaustion and feeling dizzy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sweating even in cold surroundings with heart palpitations
Diagnosis And Treatment
The doctor specializing in heart ailments, also known as a cardiologist, will thoroughly examine the external parameters of the patient along with their family’s medical history.
Imaging and electronic techniques are employed, to analyze the extent of narrowing of heart vessels and look for any blood clots or ruptures in the affected region. These laboratory protocols include ElectroCardioGram (ECG), chest X-rays, echocardiogram, blood tests, examining stress to cardiac muscles, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and assessing heart function before and after exercise.
Once the diagnosis of angina is confirmed and the type of angina is detected, appropriate treatment measures are given to the affected individual.
The healthcare provider will prescribe blood-thinning medications, which will aid in widening the narrowed arteries, to improve oxygenated blood flow to the heart. He or she will also strictly advise the patient to incorporate lifestyle changes such as avoiding stressful circumstances, eating a well-balanced diet and steering clear of tobacco and alcohol consumption.
In case the medications do not work effectively and the instance of angina is rather severe, the doctor will perform invasive surgeries like angioplasty, stenting or Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG). These procedures involve either widening the clogged coronary artery to enable unobstructed blood flow to the heart or circumventing the artery altogether and providing an alternative route for smooth blood flow to cardiac muscles. These will effectively relieve chest pain symptoms.