Angina is a type of chest pain or discomfort that occurs when part of your heart muscle doesn’t receive enough oxygen-rich blood. It affects an estimated 10 million people in the United States, with 350,000 new cases diagnosed every year. The coronary arteries supply the needed oxygen to the muscles of the heart. Angina is caused by abnormalities of the coronary arteries or coronary heart disease. Board-certified cardiologist Ramon Castello MD, FACC, FASE of CardioHealth in Jacksonville, Florida specializes in diagnosing and treating patients with all types of chest pain, including angina. To learn more, call or book an appointment online today.
Angina — also known as angina pectoris — is a symptom of an underlying cardiovascular condition that reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart. It causes a feeling of intense pressure, squeezing, burning, tightness, discomfort, or pain in your chest, usually right behind your breastbone.
For some people, angina causes pain that radiates through the arms, shoulders, back, neck, or jaw. Some patients experience no pain, but other symptoms, known as “angina equivalents” can occur, such as:
Although coronary microvascular disease, stenotic aortic valve, or a spasm of the coronary artery can cause angina, it’s most often the effect of atherosclerosis or coronary heart disease (CHD).
CHD occurs when a waxy substance called “plaque” builds up inside the walls of your coronary arteries, causing them to narrow, stiffen, and reduce the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches your heart.
Angina takes different forms, each with distinct hallmarks:
Stable angina, the most common, predictable form of the condition, happens when angina is triggered by exercise. It usually lasts a few seconds to a few minutes, and typically disappears with rest or nitroglycerin.
This medical emergency — which may be a sign of an impending heart attack — can occur even at rest. Besides being unpredictable, unstable angina tends to be more severe and longer-lasting.
Unstable angina doesn’t usually respond to rest or medication and should be treated in a hospital. Recognizing the features of this severe condition can be life-saving.
Because CHD causes the vast majority of angina cases, anything that increases your risk of developing CHD also increases your risk of developing angina. Major risk factors include:
You also have a higher chance of developing angina if you are a man older than 45, or a woman older than 55.
The primary goal of angina treatment is to decrease the incidence and severity of symptomatic episodes, while simultaneously reducing your chances of having a heart attack.
This may mean taking medications like aspirin (which promotes easier blood flow through narrowed vessels), beta-blockers (which reduce blood pressure and heart rate), and statins (which lower cholesterol levels and are potent vascular anti-inflammatories).
When an angina episode occurs, taking sublingual (under the tongue) nitroglycerin can be life-saving.
Making healthy lifestyle changes can also be very beneficial. As with all conditions that affect the heart, this includes quitting smoking, losing weight, safely increasing your activity levels, and switching to a heart-healthy diet.
For patients who can’t control angina with medications, Dr. Castello may recommend coronary interventions, which include angioplasty, stenting, and coronary artery bypass grafting.
To learn more, call or book an appointment online today.