How Does Angina Affect Your Health?

Angina is a common symptom of coronary artery disease, also referred to as simply chest pain. The signs of angina are an aching in the chest, a burning sensation, fullness, squeezing, or discomfort – many people mistake it for indigestion. While most people experience these symptoms in their chest, it has been known for angina to be felt in the shoulders, throat, jaw, neck, arms or back. As heart disease is the number one killer for men and women in the US, accounting for 40 percent of all US deaths, it’s vital that we know the signs of heart problems so that they can be dealt with early – maintaining good heart health is also important so as to avoid problems developing. Heart disease is a deadly condition because many people are too slow to seek help when the symptoms arise. While intense chest pain is an obvious sign that something is wrong with your heart, there are other symptoms which are less identifiable and, as such, may be ignored when they need to be flagged as urgent. If you’ve never had angina before, you should seek advice from your GP who can prescribe you medication to help combat the problem. Angina is caused by a decrease in blood flow to an area of the heart, which impairs the delivery of oxygen and crucial nutrients to the heart muscle cells. When this occurs, the muscle needs to use an alternative, less efficient form of fuel to ensure that it can still pump blood around the body. This process leads to lactic acid building up in the muscle, which leads to the pain we associate with the problem.


There are several types of angina, known as stable, unstable and Prinzmetal’s angina. Stable angina is a predictable form of pain, which only flares up at times of exertion or extreme emotional distress – this form generally disappears with rest. Unstable angina could be a sign of an impending heart attack and should be treated with care – this type of pain is often different from regular angina pain and may come on even after minimal activity. Lastly, Prinzmetal’s angina occurs when resting or sleeping, and sometimes arises when exposed to cold temperatures. These situations lead to a decreased blood flow to the heart muscles from a spasm of the coronary artery. Most people with this form of angina also have coronary artery disease, where the spasms occur close to a blockage. However, angina can also occur in people who don’t have coronary disease. In fact, up to 30 percent of people with angina have a heart valve problem known as aortic stenosis, which leads to a decreased blood flow to the coronary arteries from the heart. Also, people with severe anaemia may develop angina, as their blood won’t contain enough oxygen. Your GP will be able to determine if you have angina from looking at your symptoms and the triggers for your condition. If they suspect that this is the case, they will run a few tests which include exercise stress tests, electrocardiogram, stress imagine tests, echocardiogram, or a cardiac catheteristion.


There are various medications on the market to combat and treat angina, as well as lifestyle changes you can make to ease your symptoms. These include eating a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, stopping smoking and controlling your cholesterol. Medications involve beta-blockers, Ranolazine, calcium channel blockers and nitrates. These will increase the amount of oxygen to your heart to keep it working effectively. Regardless of what form of angina you have, if you feel the symptoms arising, stop what you’re doing and rest. If your GP has prescribed you a medication called nitroglycerin, take one tablet and let it dissolve under your tongue – then wait five minutes. If the problem persists, take another dose and wait  further five minutes – if this doesn’t clear your angina, repeat for a third time. If the problem hasn’t resolved after 15 minutes and three doses of nitroglycerin, you should seek emergency help.

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