Understanding Angina: Causes & Treatment Options
Chest pain is always a cause for concern, as there are multiple possible reasons for experiencing pain. Angina is one of the potential causes of chest pain. There are several possible treatment options for this condition. But what causes angina, and how can it be treated?
Angina, or chest pain, occurs when the heart’s blood flow is reduced. It is usually a symptom of coronary heart disease (CHD), but can also be a symptom of coronary microvascular disease (MVD).
Coronary heart disease is a common condition where the major blood vessels in the heart become diseased or damaged. Over time, inflammation or a buildup of fatty deposits called plaque decrease blood flow and may lead to artery damage.
Angina can be triggered by several causes, and also depends on what type of angina you have. There are four main types of angina:
- Stable: Caused by narrowed arteries. Normal blood flow is unable to pass through the artery, especially when extra strain is put in the heart from stress or exercise, and causes chest pain.
- Unstable: Can occur when plaque ruptures an artery and causes blood clots. The partial blockage from these blood clots may cause pain.
- Variant: A rare form of angina, variant angina can occur both in people who have coronary heart disease and those who do not. Occurs when an artery spasm narrows passageways and slows or stops the flow of blood through the heart.
- Microvascular: A possible symptom of coronary microvascular disease, which affects the smallest arteries and blood vessels in the heart.
Angina is often triggered by stress, smoking, certain medications, and exposure to extremely hot or cold weather, among other causes.
Signs and Symptoms of Angina
Symptoms of each type of angina can vary depending on the type of angina you have.
General symptoms may include pressure, burning, tightness, or squeezing in the chest.
Because there are so many potential – and sometimes life threatening – causes of chest pain, you should always seek a doctor’s evaluation to determine the exact nature of your pain.
In addition to general symptoms, each type of angina has its own recognizable set of symptoms.
- Stable: Usually occurs when the heart is working harder, especially during exercise. Pain or discomfort may also manifest in the arms, neck, jaw, or back. Medication and rest relieve symptoms.
- Unstable: Unexpected, severe pain which can occur while resting or sleeping, and may worsen over time. Symptoms do not improve with rest or medication. A potential indicator of an upcoming heart attack.
- Variant: Severe pain which occurs during early morning or at night, but is relieved by medication.
- Microvascular: Pain which is very severe and may be accompanied by shortness of breath, fatigue, lack of energy, and sleep problems.
Angina occurs at about the same rate in men and women. Microvascular angina occurs in women slightly more frequently.
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels
- High blood pressure
- Insulin resistance
- Age (men over 45 and women over 55)
- Family history
- Lack of physical activity
Since angina is frequently a symptom of heart disease, preventing or reducing the chance of – or delaying – developing angina is similar to preventing heart disease.
- Lower risk factors, including reducing cholesterol, reducing high blood pressure.
- Keep your heart healthy by practicing a healthy lifestyle, including eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
- If you smoke, consider quitting. Quitting is not just good fit your heart; it’s good for your overall health!
Treatments for Angina
Treating angina largely involves lifestyle changes and medications. Both of these help control symptoms and work to improve quality of life.
Medical procedures and cardiac rehabilitation may be required if symptoms worsen.
While angina isn’t a heart attack, it does increase the risk of having one. If your symptoms are abnormal and don’t ease with rest or medication, these may be indicative of a heart attack. Don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1.
By learning patterns and avoiding angina triggers, living with angina can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible.
Heart Care at Florida Medical Clinic
Heart health is essential to a long and active life. Chest pains are not normal to experience and should not be taken lightly. The cause of any chest pain should always be evaluated by a doctor. Our Cardiology Department provides comprehensive heart care services to help your heart stay healthy for years to come. Make an appointment today!