Angina, a type of chest pain or discomfort that occurs when part of your heart muscle doesn’t receive enough oxygen-rich blood, affects an estimated 10 million people in the United States, with a further 350,000 cases diagnosed every year. As a symptom of an underlying heart condition, angina is typically the result of undetected 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, causing 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. Angina may also cause:
Although angina may be triggered by coronary microvascular disease, stenotic heart valve disease, or a spasm of the coronary artery, it’s most often an effect of 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 a few different forms, each with its own hallmarks:
Stable angina, the most common kind of the condition, happens when physical exertion requires your heart to work harder.
It usually lasts just a few minutes, and typically disappears when you rest or take angina medication.
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 often worsens over time.
Although variant angina is rare, it affects a higher percentage of women than men. With this form of the condition, chest pain or discomfort usually occurs at night or in the early morning hours. It typically presents severe symptoms.
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’re a man older than 45, a woman older than 55, or you have a family history of heart disease.
The primary goals of any angina treatment plan are 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 nitrate, which relaxes and widens your blood vessels, or aspirin, which promotes easier blood flow through narrowed vessels. Other medications include beta blockers and statins.
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 that’s centered on whole foods.
Learning how to slow down or relax when you feel angina symptoms coming on can also help prevent a full-blown episode.
For patients who can’t control angina with these methods, Dr. Castello may recommend surgery. Surgical treatments for angina include angioplasty and stenting, and coronary artery bypass grafting.
To learn more, call or book an appointment online today.