Apr 05, 2023




What You Need To Know About Angina


If you've ever had a sudden, tight feeling in your chest, you aren't alone. With around 10 million people in the United States experiencing angina each year, this common health issue is caused by insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle. It can vary in severity from causing pain and discomfort to even being life-threatening. 

Understanding what angina is, its causes, and treatments - including medication such as amlodipine besylate - are crucial for taking charge of your cardiovascular health and reducing risks and complications associated with this condition. 

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What is angina?

Angina refers to chest pain or discomfort when the heart isn't getting enough oxygen-rich blood causing it to beat faster. It's important to note that angina isn't a medical condition but a symptom or warning sign of heart disease. 

What are the symptoms of angina?

The two most common symptoms of angina are pain and discomfort. However, other symptoms may occur, such as:

Men and women may experience different symptoms. Sometimes women feel pain in areas other than their chest, such as the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen, or back. 

What does angina pain feel like?

Many people describe the pain from angina as pressure, squeezing, or burning in the chest. Some people also feel pain radiating to their shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. It's also known to feel like an upset stomach or indigestion. 

What causes angina?

A decrease in blood flow to the heart (myocardial ischemia) causes angina. This can happen as a result of a few different issues with the coronary arteries, including:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)

  • Coronary microvascular disease

  • Coronary artery spasm

Who is at risk for angina?

Several risk factors can reduce the amount of oxygen-rich blood going to the heart or lead to heart problems, causing angina. These risk factors include:

  • Anemia

  • Chronic stress

  • Alcohol and drug abuse 

  • Smoking

  • Exposure to second-hand smoke

  • Exposure to particle pollution (i.e., dust from roads, mines, farms, and construction sites) 

  • Obesity 

  • Diabetes

  • Inflammation

  • Unhealthy diet (i.e., high in saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, sodium, or refined carbohydrates) 

  • Heart failure

  • Heart valve disease 

  • High blood pressure

  • Enlarged heart (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy)

  • Family history of heart disease

  • Lack of physical activity 

  • Metabolic syndrome

  • Age

  • Sex 

  • Race/ethnicity 

What are the different types of angina?

There are actually four different types of angina, each with its own symptoms and causes. 

  • Stable angina, also known as angina pectoris, the most common type, occurs when the heart is under stress (i.e., during physical activity) and goes away with rest.

  • Unstable angina is more severe and can occur even when the person is at rest or during a low level of physical activity.

  • Variant angina, or Prinzmetal's angina, is caused by a spasm in the coronary arteries, leading to chest pain or discomfort.

  • Microvascular angina affects the heart's tiny arteries and is often a sign of coronary heart disease. Symptoms can occur during exercise or at rest, are often more painful, and last longer than others. 

How is angina diagnosed?

Angina is diagnosed based on medical history, a physical exam, and diagnostic tests and procedures.

Your physician may order one or more of the following tests to assess whether you need immediate heart attack treatment and rule out additional medical conditions:

  • Blood test

  • Chest x-ray 

  • Stress test

  • Computed tomography angiography 

  • Coronary angiography with cardiac catheterization 

  • Echocardiogram 

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)

  • Hyperventilation testing

  • Magnetic resonance imaging 

  • Provocation tests

How do you treat angina?

Treatment will depend on the results of your physical exam, tests, and the underlying cause of your angina. 

In combination with lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medication. The most common medicines for treating angina are:

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) are two medical procedures used when lifestyle and medications aren't effective in controlling angina. 

What are ways to prevent angina?

While some risk factors, like age and sex, can't be changed, you can prevent angina by living a heart-healthy lifestyle. This includes:

  • Quitting smoking

  • Decreasing or eliminating drinking alcohol

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet

  • Moving your body daily 

  • Prioritizing sleep 

  • Finding healthy ways to manage stress (i.e., yoga, meditation, or journaling)

  • Taking medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider

  • Managing risk factors for coronary artery disease (i.e., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes) 

  • Maintaining a healthy weight for your body type 

Final thoughts 

While angina is common, understanding its symptoms, causes, and treatment options is crucial for managing it effectively. If you experience any symptoms of angina, seek medical help immediately. Your doctor can help determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment to improve your heart health and quality of life. 

Remember, prevention is key, so prioritize heart-healthy habits, such as exercise, eating a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and getting enough sleep.

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