Everything You Need to Know About Angina

When your heart muscles are not getting enough oxygen, your wellbeing can be affected by angina. When this happens, it means a big concern for your heart health as angina is a sign of heart disease. One in 10 of those whose wellness is affected by angina will go on to have a heart attack within a year of diagnosis.

Your coronary arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle, and so when these narrow or start becoming blocked, angina and heart disease can occur. If these arteries become fully blocked, your muscles of your heart can’t gain access to the blood supply, and this is what causes a heart attack. Angina may be an occasional problem or may rapidly worsen until a heart attack occurs.

Pain in the chest is the main symptom of angina, although you can also feel short of breath, anxious or nauseous. The pain usually begins as a vague discomfort or ache in the centre of your chest, but it varies and may be described as tightness, burning, crushing, pressure or heaviness. You may experience a choking sensation, or find that the pain radiates or moves to your neck, shoulder, jaw or down into your left arm. However, this pain usually only lasts a few minutes and responds to treatment quickly.

Angina can be caused by atherosclerosis, high cholesterol (especially if you have an inherited tendency to high cholesterol or a strong family history of heart disease), cigarette smoking, diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure. Angina can also occur due to other conditions in which your blood supply cannot get to your heart muscle. These include abnormal heart rhythms, heart valve disease, structural abnormalities of your coronary arteries and severe anaemia. Other factors can make angina worse, such as obesity, fever, infection and serious illness, emotional stress, an overactive thyroid gland and sudden extreme exertion.

Lifestyle changes are a major part of angina treatment, as weight loss, exercise, quitting smoking and a healthy diet can help manage your risk factors. You can also take a drug called glyceryl trinitrate or GTN which comes in spray form, or as a tablet you put under your tongue. If you’re worried you may be at risk of angina, or coronary heart disease, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

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