Understanding Angina

What is Angina?

Angina, or angina pectoris, is a frequently occurring discomfort. It's usually located near the center of the chest. The pain or discomfort occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle doesn't meet the heart needs. As a result, the heart doesn't get enough oxygen and nutrients.

The discomfort occurs most often during exercise or emotional stress, that's when the heart rate and blood pressure increase, and the heart muscle needs more oxygen.

Anginal pain or discomfort is usually brief, lasting just a few minutes. People describe it as heaviness, tightness, pain, burning, and pressure or squeezing, usually located behind the breastbone (sternum), and sometimes it spreads to the arms, neck or jaw. It may also cause numbness in the shoulders, arms, or wrists.

Angina and Heart Attack

Angina is different from heart attack.

 With angina, the blood which flows through coronary arteries (which bring blood to the heart muscle) is reduced, especially when the heart must do more work. This reduced blood flow is temporary and leads to discomfort in the chest.

With a heart attack, the blood flow to part of the heart muscle is suddenly cut off when a coronary artery is blocked. The chest pain that results is usually more severe and lasts longer.

What Causes Angina?

Angina and heart attack are caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries due to deposition of fatty substances such as cholesterol. It usually starts early in life. Everyone has it to some degree by middle age.

Medical Treatment

Nitrates usually work well to relieve and even prevent chest discomfort from angina. They could be taken in tiny tablets (dissolved under the tongue), oral capsules, tablets, or spray.

It may take several tablets a day to control your symptoms. Nitrates are safe and not habit-forming, so don't be afraid to take them, but first ask your doctor about the right nitrate in the right formulation at the right timing.

What Can You Do?

You can improve your condition by altering your lifestyle to reduce the chance of anginal attacks. The suggestions that follow can help you live more comfortably with angina:

  • Control your physical activity: learn what kinds of activities bring on your angina, and avoid them. Moderate exercise may be good for you. Usually symptoms of angina decrease when a person starts a program of progressive exercise. Ask your doctor about the best types and amounts of exercise for you.
  • Avoid emotional upsets: including outbursts of temper, excitement, and long-lasting tensions that can trigger angina. Meditation and relaxation exercises are good ways to calm your emotions.
  • Adopt good eating habits: try to avoid fatty meals and rich food that leaves you feeling stuffed. Extra body weight can also aggravate angina.
  • Don't smoke: since smoking is bad for your general health. Cigarette smoking often makes angina worse, and it increases the risk of heart attack and other circulatory disorders.
  • Control high blood pressure: which increases the risk of developing heart disease and other circulatory disorders, it also increases the heart work and can aggravate angina, so follow your doctor's advice about controlling your blood pressure.
Therefore, angina is a common problem. Most people who understand angina and act to control it can lead active lives.

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