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Angina Pectoris: Why Your Heart Hurts?

Dr. Tariq Mehmood Malik

3 min read

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‘Angina pectoris’ is a condition of the heart which is generally experienced as a sharp pain in the chest. The pain comes in brief but generally regular episodes. Each episode is usually 5-15 minutes long and along with pain some other symptoms are also experienced. Angina pectoris is relatively a less serious condition; however, it requires attention and treatment.

Angina pectoris itself is a symptom of the onset of a more serious problem, and if left unattended it can lead to issues like irregular rhythms in heart beat and heart attack which can be fatal. Awareness of conditions like stable angina can help one seek treatment in time and save oneself from unnecessary complications.

We are thus, breaking down angina pectoris for you so that you can take precautions and get professional assistance in a timely manner.

What causes Angina Pectoris?

Angina pectoris is actually the pain in the heart muscle. It can be due to a number of reasons but most of the time, the heart muscle aches when it has to work harder than normal. Heart’s workload can be enhanced by both physical and emotional stress. Under stress, the arteries constrict and the heart has to work harder in order to push oxygenated blood to different organs of the body. The arteries can also become inefficient due to factors like age of the patient and cholesterol levels.

Unhealthy lifestyle, which involves high consumption patterns of fat can lead to build up of a substance in the inner lining of the arteries. This build up decreases the width of the artery area available for blood flow leading to an overworked and aching heart.

Risk factors

The following risk factors increase your risk of coronary artery disease and angina:

  • Tobacco use. Chewing tobacco, smoking and long-term exposure to secondhand smoke damage the interior walls of arteries — including arteries to your heart — allowing deposits of cholesterol to collect and block blood flow.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes increases the risk of coronary artery disease, which leads to angina and heart attacks by speeding up atherosclerosis and increasing your cholesterol levels.
  • High blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure damages arteries by accelerating hardening of the arteries.
  • Family history of heart disease. If a family member has coronary artery disease or has had a heart attack, you’re at a greater risk of developing angina.
  • Older age. Men older than 45 and women older than 55 have a greater risk than do younger adults.
  • Lack of exercise. An inactive lifestyle contributes to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity. However, it is important to talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • Obesity. Obesity is linked with high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and diabetes, all which increase your risk of angina and heart disease. If you’re overweight, your heart has to work harder to supply blood to the body.
  • Stress. Stress can increase your risk of angina and heart attacks. Too much stress, as well as anger, also can raise your blood pressure. Surges of hormones produced during stress can narrow your arteries and worsen angina

Symptoms:

A heavy weight pushing down hard on the chest has been often used as an analogy to describe angina pectoris. The sensation of pain might also feel like that someone is squeezing your heart. The pain, however, is temporary and is triggered by physical or emotional exertion. Some of the symptoms that accompany the chest pain during an episode of stable angina are as follows:

Pain in neck and arms: Angina pain more often than usual starts in the chest and then spreads to the neck and arms.

Breathing: During an angina episode, the sufferer is likely to experience difficulty in breathing.

Sweating: The pain of angina is often accompanied by heavy sweating, ultimately leading to a very low body temperature.

Dizziness: The patient is likely to experience some dizziness along with nausea.

Other: Some patients also experience severe anxiety and fatigue during an angina attack.

Treatment:

As mentioned before, stable angina should not be ignored as the condition becomes more painful with each episode. The first step is to meet a heart specialist and discuss all the symptoms. Although an awareness of the symptoms is necessary it cannot replace a proper diagnosis from a doctor.

Some tools used for the diagnosis of angina include angiography, electrocardiogram and the stress test. These tools can provide information about any blockage that may be present in the arteries and thus tell if the patient is experiencing angina. Depending upon the extent of the problem the doctor might suggest surgery or medicine.

Most of the time a medicine called nitroglycerin is enough to manage angina pain but sometimes a procedure known as angioplasty might also be required. Along with medicine and surgery, some lifestyle changes such as a fat free diet and light exercise are absolutely necessary to manage angina pectoris.

If you are experiencing angina like symptoms, see a cardiologist as soon as possible. You can also book an appointment with top cardiologists in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 to get directed to the specialists that can cater to your specific concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Tariq Mehmood Malik - Author "Prof. Dr. Tariq Mahmood Malik is a cardiologist of international stature and fame. He is well known cardiologist in Pakistan all over, with impeccable record of dedicated service to cardiac patients and field of cardiolog. Prof. Dr. Tariq Mahmood Malik loves to write on healthcare to raise awareness about general healthcare issues in Pakistan and advise patients on healthy living."
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