Know the basics
What is angina?
Angina is chest pain or discomfort that is usually caused by lack of blood flow to the heart. This is usually caused by narrowing or blockage of blood vessels in the body. Your heart needs oxygen that your blood carries. Less blood that reaches the heart, less oxygen is delivered for the heart to pump blood. There are three types of angina:
- Stable angina is the most common type. It happens when the heart is working harder than usual. Stable angina has a regular pattern. Rest and medicines usually help.
- Unstable angina is the most dangerous. It does not follow a pattern and can happen without physical exertion. It does not go away with rest or medicine. It is a sign that you could have a heart attack soon.
- Variant angina is rare. It happens when you are resting. Medicines can help.
Not all chest pain or discomfort is angina. If you have chest pain, you should contact your doctor immediately.
How common is angina?
Anyone can get angina for different reasons. People who already have heart disease are more likely to have angina. Males over 45 and females over 55 are at higher risk. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of angina?
The common symptoms of angina are …
- Pain or discomfort in the chest;
- Pain in your arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back accompanying chest pain;
- Shortness of breath;
Symptoms may also vary depending the type of angina you may have. Here are some signs and symptoms of each type:
Stable angina is chest pain or discomfort that typically occurs with activity or stress. Episodes of pain or discomfort are provoked by similar or consistent amounts of activity or stress.
If you have stable angina, you can learn its pattern and predict when the pain will occur. The pain usually goes away a few minutes after you rest or take your angina medicine.
Unstable angina refers to angina in which the pattern of symptoms changes. It often occurs at night, during sleep. It may occur more often and be more severe than stable angina. Unstable angina also can occur with or without physical exertion, and rest or medicine may not relieve the pain.
Variant angina is rare. A spasm in a coronary artery causes this type of angina. Variant angina usually occurs while you’re at rest, and the pain can be severe. It usually happens between midnight and early morning. Medicine can relieve this type of angina.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs of angina, you should contact your doctor immediately. Stable angina isn’t a heart attack, but it suggests that a heart attack is more likely to happen in the future.
Unstable angina is very dangerous and requires emergency treatment. This type of angina is a sign that a heart attack may happen soon.
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor.
Know the causes
What causes angina?
Angina is caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart. Causes may include the following:
- Coronary artery disease from atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in blood vessels to the heart).
- Abnormal heart rhythms.
- Fewer oxygen-carrying red blood cells (anemia).
- Spasms of the coronary arteries.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for angina?
There are many risk factors for angina, such as:
- Age and sex: males over 60 and women after menopause.
- Family history with heart diseases.
- People who eat high-fat high-cholesterol foods.
- People who don’t exercise regularly.
- People with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is angina diagnosed?
Before determining a diagnosis, your doctor may perform the following tests:
- electrocardiograms (ECGs);
- treadmill and exercise tests;
- A heart catherization which is performed to check the heart’s blood flow by putting a device through an artery into the heart. This test show signs of any blocked artery.
How is angina treated?
The goal is to improve blood flow to the heart or to reduce the workload of the heart. Resting or reducing activity is the first treatment.
Aspirin improves blood flow. Nitrates, such as nitroglycerin, cause vasodilation that can also help with blood flow. Other medications such as beta-blockers slow down the heart rate, which reduces the workload of the heart. It is important to treat the underlying cause (e.g. hypertension, arrhythmias, diabetes, high cholesterol). Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat these conditions first. If medication doesn’t work, surgery may be needed. Surgery may include the following:
- Angioplasty and stenting: This is performed to open the blood vessels by inserting a tiny balloon in a narrowed artery to widen the artery then placing a small wire mesh (stent). This procedure improves blood blow effectively and is a good treatment for patients with unstable angina.
- Coronary artery bypass: This procedure is performed to bypass the blocked or narrowed artery by using a vein or artery from another part of the body. This is usually a good option for both stable and unstable angina that is unresponsive to medications.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage angina?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with angina:
- Stop smoking tobacco;
- Establish a healthy diet by limiting fat, eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables;
- Consult a doctor to determine the most effective exercise routine;
- If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about weight loss regime for your current health;
- Follow doctor’s appointment and prescription;
- If angina is caused by diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol, you should treat those diseases first;
- Have time for relaxation and proper rest.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print edition. Page 3
Porter, Robert. Kaplan Justin. Homeier Barbara. The Merck manual home health handbook. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2009. Print edition. Page 406
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017