Angina is a heart condition caused when blood supply to heart muscles is restricted due to hardened and narrow arteries. Angina symptoms will usually be a tight chest pain which sometimes spreads to the arms, neck, jaw and back. There may also be a feeling of breathlessness.

Also known as angina pectoris, such heart problems have stable and unstable forms. Stable angina develops gradually and has a set pattern. It may be experienced when climbing the stairs, for example. Unstable angina symptoms develop more rapidly and chest pains may continue, even when resting, for up to 20 minutes.

Most cases of angina are caused by atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty substances or ‘plaque’ in arteries. A complication could occur when the blood supply to the heart becomes blocked and triggers a heart attack or a stroke.

Risk factors for angina

An advanced age, obesity and a high-fat diet are all high risk factors. Smoking will also increase the risk factor because this makes arteries less flexible.

Those suffering from the stable form, could take glyceryl trinitrate to alleviate chest pains quickly.

Additional risk factors which contribute to unstable angina are high blood pressure, having a history of heart disease and suffering from diabetes.

A series of initial tests will be carried out to check the severity of angina pectoris:

  • Blood pressure
  • Weight and waist measurements
  • Cholesterol and glucose levels
  • Urine to check kidney function

If angina is suspected, it will be necessary to visit a cardiology unit and be given an electrocardiogram (ECG) which records the rhythms and electrical activity of the heart. A similar exercise tolerance test (ETT) may also be carried out.

An alternative to an ETT is myocardial perfusion scintigraphy (MPS), where a radioactive substance is injected into the bloodstream and then tracked to see how well blood is reaching the heart.

Accurately assessing heart health in this way could stop this form of heart disease from getting any worse and lessen the risk of a heart attack.

How can your angina be treated?

The most common medicine is glyceryl trinitrate which dilates your arteries and supplies more oxygen to your heart muscles.

A routine surgical treatment for such heart problems is balloon angioplasty where a catheter is fed into the artery before being inflated to widen the artery.

Alternatively a coronary bypass may be performed, to help the blood flow to your heart and to avoid the clogged artery causing your angina.

Clearly, a healthier lifestyle can reduce the risks of developing angina and diminish the dangers once it’s diagnosed. Try to quit smoking and cut back on rich fatty foods and perhaps introduce some gentle exercise into your daily routine so that, if angina is identified, you’re in good shape to deal with it.

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