The word Angina originates from Latin. It refers to a “painful constriction or tightness in the body.” The term angina is most commonly used to refer to angina pectoris, or chest tightness. This occurs due to ischemia, a condition in which the heart does not get enough blood. It is commonly a symptom of atherosclerosis, which is a build up of plaque in the arteries. As plaque accumulates the arteries become smaller and smaller, reducing the amount of blood and therefore oxygen that reaches the heart. It is accompanied by pain and or a feeling of tightness in the chest.
Types Of Angina
There are three main types of angina:
Stable Angina– The most common form of angina, and occurs when the heart is working harder than normal. There is a regular pattern to it and patients can often predict when they will experience symptoms. It can be controlled with medication. Stable angina does not mean that a heat attack is inevitable, but it does increase the likelihood of such an occurrence.
Unstable Angina– Unstable angina follows no regular pattern. It can occur without warning and will not be relieved with medication or rest. Unstable angina indicates that a heart attack is highly likely and emergency treatment may be required. It occurs because plaque build-up can sometimes rupture, resulting in the formation of blood clots. These blood clots may result in an even larger blockage, sometimes completely blocking the artery and therefore resulting in a heart attack.
Variant angina– This is a rare form that usually occurs at rest between the hours of midnight and early morning. It occurs due to spasms in a coronary artery. The spasm causes the artery to narrow and slow or even stop blood flow to the heart. It can occur in people with or without CAD. For regular sufferers it can be relieved with medication.
Causes of Angina
The tight feeling associated with angina is often associated with exercise or some for of physical exertion in which the body is unable to meet the heart’s demand for oxygen. It can also be triggered by emotional stress or anxiety, exposure to extremes of temperature, eating a very large meal, or using drugs that cause vasoconstriction, such as cocaine, caffeine and nicotine.
Aspirin helps thin the blood and thus helps blood flow more efficiently to the heart. Doses of 75mg to 100mg per day have proven beneficial to patients with stable angina.
Beta blockers reduce the amount of blood required by the heart to function adequately.
Nitro-glycerine medication-relieves the symptoms of angina.
Vasodilators– cause the blood vessels to dilate and ease the flow of blood through passages.
Exercise– has long term benefits in reducing symptoms of angina, by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The intensity must be low due to the potential for exertion to trigger chest discomfort.
The individual suffering form angina must be able to identify situations when he or she is potentially at risk. Stable angina normally follows consistent patterns. Warning signs are when angina deviates form theses patterns; such as occurring more frequently, greater pain, occurring without any normal triggers, or not going away with rest or medicine. Sufferers must know their limits with regards to physical exertion. Stress should be minimized and therefore learning relaxation techniques such as meditation may be beneficial.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between Angina and a heart attack. Often people will wait 2 hours or more from the time they start experiencing pain and the time they seek medical help. This delay can result in long term serious heart damage and even death. Suffering from angina does not necessarily mean a heart attack is inevitable, but the likelihood is greatly increased. Therefore it is wise to err on the side of caution, and if in doubt, seek medical attention as soon as possible.