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All About Angina

Have you ever suffered a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart trouble? Maybe your doctor has warned you of the possibility of heart disease in your future, or perhaps heart disease runs in your family. If so, then one thing you should definitely be aware of is the indication that something is not quite right with your ticker. One of those signs is angina. Let’s learn more about this critical red flag.

What is angina?
Before heart disease is officially diagnosed, it if often preceded by angina, which is a pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest that is usually warning you that your heart is not receiving enough oxygen.

What does it feel like?
Angina itself is not a disease but a symptom of heart trouble. If feels like a squeezing or crushing pain in the chest, although it is sometimes described as pressure, tightness, or burning. It has been likened to a vise around or a heavy weight on the chest. Occasionally the pain or discomfort is felt in the neck, arm (especially the left arm, which is closest to the heart), jaw, lower teeth, back, or upper abdomen. The pain may be accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, or dizziness.

When does it happen?
Usually angina occurs when blood vessels that carry oxygen to the heart become narrowed or develop spasms, limiting the supply of oxygen to the heart; but other factors may play a role. It is felt most often during exertion, such as walking, climbing stairs, carrying a heavy load, or performing any activity that increases the oxygen demand on your heart. Sometimes, little or no exertion is needed to provoke an attack, such as after meals, when exposed to cold winds, or during excitement or stress.

Generally speaking, angina rarely lasts longer than three to five minutes. Angina can be relieved by rest but can recur several times within a short period. Pain or discomfort that lasts longer than this may signal a heart attack. Rather than take chances, seek medical attention immediately.

Are there treatment options?
Once you have had angina, how can it be treated? Drugs that affect the supply of blood to the heart muscle or medications that lower the heart's workload are commonly prescribed.

Drugs called coronary vasodilators help the blood vessels relax and open up to allow greater blood flow. More oxygen and other nutrients can then reach the heart muscle. Nitroglycerin is the vasodilator used most often. Medicines called beta blockers or calcium channel blockers also help relieve angina. Aspirin and cholesterol-lowering medicines can help prevent recurrence of heart problems. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

To reduce the possibility that angina will lead to heart disease, you may need to make some lifestyle changes. If you smoke, stop, and if you are overweight, adapt your diet and exercise level to help shed those pounds.  Supplementing your diet with natural supplements may also help you fill in the gaps of your diet and enhance the functioning of your circulatory system. Omega-3’ fatty acids are great for heart health, as is CoQ10, just to name a couple natural options.

Even if you don’t think you’re at risk for heart disease, it’s important to recognize the warning signs that something might be amiss with your heart and be ready to address any problems that arise.

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