Angina or heart pain occurs when there is insufficient oxygen-rich blood flowing through the heart muscles. It is often characterized by a tight feeling in a person’s chest, which may also extend up to the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back.
It is commonly due to an underlying heart problem such as Coronary Artery Disease (where the arteries supplying blood to the heart narrows and becomes blocked), which is the most common cause of heart disease and the main reason why people have heart attacks.
With this, you constantly experience symptoms when your heart works harder than usual, such as while you are exercising. Unlike other types of angina, stable angina can be predicted and the pain only lasts a relatively short time. The discomfort can easily be relieved by resting or through angina medication.
This is a medical emergency. This type of angina is unpredictable and may occur even when the body is at rest. It is more severe and can last up to 30 minutes or longer. Having an unstable angina might be a sign of an impending heart attack.
As the symptoms can be quite common, a cardiologist should be consulted to determine if it is indeed a cardiac condition or an emergency, or something else.
As a general rule, apart from angina, heart diseases also present with symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, fatigue and breathlessness – particularly in women.
In order to differentiate angina from other non-heart-related causes of chest pain, several diagnostic tests may be performed:
This test uses sound waves to examine the status of the heart. Results of an echocardiography comes in 2 and 3-dimentional images of the heart and it can show if blood is flowing properly in the chambers and valves of the heart.
Angina is easier to diagnose when the heart is working harder. During a stress test, the patient’s blood pressure and ECG readings are examined while he or she exercises by walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bicycle.
This procedure records a person’s heartbeat by using an electrical impulse generated from special cells. Through this, the doctor can look for patterns among the heartbeats to see if there is an abnormality in the blood flow through the vessels.
Images of the heart and lungs are taken with the help of this test. Chest x-rays can determine if there are existing structural abnormalities.
This x-ray imaging test examines the inside of the heart’s blood vessels. During this procedure, a type of dye that is visible in an x-ray machine is injected into the heart’s blood vessels.
One way to reduce the risk of angina is to engage in an active lifestyle and keep a healthy diet. Treatment can also involve oral medications. In severe cases, an angioplasty or bypass surgery may be required to unblock the arteries and resume normal blood flow.
Nevertheless, a proper consultation and detailed cardiac assessment with a heart specialist first will help greatly in the prevention and treatment of angina and other heart diseases.