If you or a loved one is experiencing chest pain, it could be a sign of something more serious, such as angina. Angina is a medical condition caused by reduced blood flow to your heart. At Cameron Hospital, we provide detailed and effective treatments for those living with this cardiac issue and are here to help support both patients and their families on the path to better health through expert cardiology care.
What is Angina?
Angina is a condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. It is caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscle and can create a feeling of pressure or tightness in the chest. Angina can be triggered by physical activity, emotional stress, or consuming a heavy meal. The condition can be classified into various types, including stable, unstable, and variant angina, each with its own symptoms and an indication of severity. Angina is often a precursor to a heart attack, which is why it is vital to seek medical attention if you experience its symptoms. With proper diagnosis and treatment, managing angina can improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of developing heart-related illnesses.
4 Types of Angina
The four main types of cardiomyopathy include dilated cardiomyopathy, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, restrictive cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy, and left ventricular cardiomyopathy. Each type of cardiomyopathy has its own specific symptoms and treatment options, and understanding the differences between them is important for the proper management of the condition.
Stable angina is the most common type of angina and is caused by physical exertion or emotional stress. Symptoms often appear in a predictable pattern and can be relieved with rest or medication. It isn’t usually life-threatening, but it could indicate that your heart isn’t functioning at its best.
Unstable angina occurs when the chest pain becomes more frequent and unpredictable, often during periods of rest. This type of angina can also be more severe than stable angina, indicating an imminent risk for a heart attack.
Variant (Prinzmetal) Angina
Variant (or Prinzmetal) Angina is rarer than other types of angina and is caused by a spasm in the arteries, rather than reduced blood flow. It usually happens at night or during rest and can be more severe than stable angina.
Microvascular angina occurs when there is an issue with the tiny vessels that supply oxygen to the heart muscle. This type of angina has similar symptoms to other types but may not respond as well to traditional treatments.
Angina Signs and Symptoms
Angina can be a sign of an underlying heart condition, so being able to recognize its signs and symptoms is key to getting proper care. The most common symptom of angina is chest pain or discomfort, but it can also include pressure or a squeezing sensation in the chest. This pain can radiate to the arms, back, neck, or jaw. Some people may also experience shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, or lightheadedness. If you experience any of these symptoms, especially during physical activity or stress, it’s important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
How is Angina Diagnosed?
To diagnose angina, doctors will ask detailed questions about a patient’s medical history, including whether they smoke, have high cholesterol, or have a family history of heart disease. A physical exam may also be conducted, including an electrocardiogram (EKG) which records the heart’s electrical activity, and a stress test, which measures the heart’s response to stress. Depending on the severity of symptoms and test results, doctors may also order a coronary angiography, which uses a dye and X-rays to examine the blood vessels in the heart. With proper diagnosis and treatment, angina can be effectively managed to prevent more serious heart conditions.
Treatment Options for Angina
Several treatment options are available for managing angina, depending on the severity and underlying cause of the condition. These options include medication, lifestyle changes, and surgical procedures.
Medication to Treat Angina
One common type of medication used to treat angina is nitroglycerin, which works by dilating the blood vessels and allowing more blood to flow to the heart. Other medications that may be used include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and ACE inhibitors. It’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the best medication regimen for your individual needs, as well as to closely monitor any potential side effects or interactions with other medications you may be taking.
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Angina Symptoms
In addition to medication, making lifestyle changes can help reduce the frequency and severity of angina episodes. These include quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, managing stress levels, and reducing alcohol consumption. Making these important lifestyle changes can not only improve overall health but also help prevent future heart complications.
Surgery for Angina
For those with angina, surgery may be necessary in order to alleviate symptoms and improve the overall quality of life. While medications can do wonders in alleviating the pain and discomfort associated with angina, surgery may be the best option for those who have not seen improvement with medication alone. There are different types of surgeries available, including angioplasty and bypass grafting, each with its own benefits.
When to See a Cardiologist for Angina
Angina is a serious condition, so it’s important to seek medical attention if you experience any of its symptoms. If the pain gets worse over time or radiates to other parts of your body, it’s especially important to see a cardiologist as soon as possible. A cardiologist is specially trained in diagnosing and treating heart conditions and can help determine the underlying cause of your angina before providing an appropriate course of treatment. Having regular checkups with a cardiologist may also help prevent or delay future heart-related illnesses.
Schedule an Appointment with a Cardiologist
Taking care of your heart health is crucial, and scheduling an appointment with a cardiologist is a smart first step. By doing so, you’re proactively taking control of your health and ensuring that you’re keeping up with any potential issues. It’s best to choose a reputable cardiologist who can provide you with guidance on how to take care of your heart, and who can perform any necessary tests or procedures to give you an accurate diagnosis. Contact us today to learn more.