Angina is a condition characterised by chest pain or discomfort caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscle. This reduction in blood flow is usually due to the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Angina is typically a symptom of coronary artery disease, which is the most common type of heart disease.
Heart failure, on the other hand, is a chronic condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and valve disorders.
Angina and heart failure are related in that they both involve problems with the heart’s ability to function properly. While angina is typically caused by reduced blood flow to the heart, heart failure can be caused by a variety of factors, including damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack, high blood pressure, or a valve disorder.
In some cases, angina can be a warning sign of an impending heart attack or heart failure. It is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing symptoms of angina or heart failure, as these conditions can be life-threatening if left untreated.
What types of angina are there?
There are many types of angina, including;
Stable angina, also known as angina pectoris, is a type of angina that occurs predictably and typically with physical exertion or emotional stress. The pain or discomfort associated with stable angina is usually brief, lasting only a few minutes, and often described as a tightness, pressure, or squeezing sensation in the chest. Stable angina is caused by a temporary reduction in blood flow to the heart due to narrowed or blocked coronary arteries, and the symptoms usually go away with rest or medication.
Unstable angina is a type of angina that is characterised by chest pain or discomfort that occurs at rest or with minimal exertion, or that is more severe or prolonged than typical angina. It is called “unstable” because the symptoms may occur unpredictably and can quickly worsen over time. Unstable angina is considered a medical emergency because it may indicate that a heart attack is imminent. It requires immediate evaluation and treatment by a healthcare professional.
Variant angina, also known as Prinzmetal’s angina, is a rare type of angina that occurs when the coronary arteries spasm, causing a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart. It often occurs at rest and can be accompanied by changes in the electrocardiogram (ECG). Variant angina can be triggered by exposure to cold temperatures, emotional stress, or certain medications. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of variant angina, as it can lead to a heart attack or other serious complications.
Microvascular angina is a condition in which a person experiences chest pain or discomfort, but there is no evidence of blockages in the large arteries that supply blood to the heart. Instead, microvascular angina is caused by abnormalities in the small blood vessels that supply the heart, known as the microvasculature. Because it differs in origin from other forms of angina, its symptoms are harder to predict, diagnose and treat.
What are the risk factors for angina?
There are several risk factors associated with angina, including:
- Age, because as people get older, their risk of developing angina increases.
- High blood pressure can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of angina.
- High levels of LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, can contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to angina.
- Diabetes can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease, including angina.
- If someone in your immediate family has had angina or heart disease, you may be at a higher risk.
- Smoking damages blood vessels and increases the risk of angina and other heart-related problems.
- Lack of physical activity can increase the risk of angina and other heart-related problems.
- Being overweight or obese can put extra strain on the heart and increase the risk of angina and other heart-related problems.
What are the symptoms associated with angina?
Angina is typically characterised by discomfort or pain in the chest, which can also be felt in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. The pain or discomfort may feel like pressure, squeezing, or a burning sensation.
Other symptoms that may accompany angina include shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and may be triggered by physical activity, emotional stress, or other factors.
It is important to note that some people with angina may not experience chest pain or discomfort, and may only have other symptoms such as shortness of breath or fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention right away.
How is angina diagnosed?
To diagnose angina, a healthcare provider will typically perform a physical exam and ask about a person’s medical history and symptoms. They may also perform various tests, including:
This test measures the electrical activity of the heart and can detect abnormalities.
This test involves exercising on a treadmill or stationary bike while your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored. It can help detect if the heart is getting enough blood and oxygen during physical activity. It can also be combined with an echocardiogram to detect the contraction of the heart at rest and immediately after exercise (Stress echocardiogram).
This test uses sound waves to create images of the heart and can detect any abnormalities or damage to the heart muscle.
This test involves injecting a contrast dye into the bloodstream and taking X-ray images of the coronary arteries to see if they are blocked or narrowed.
These can check for high levels of certain enzymes in the blood that may indicate a heart attack or other heart problem.
How do you treat angina?
The treatment of angina may vary depending on the type and severity of the condition. Here are some common approaches to treating angina:
Lifestyle modifications, such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly, are often the first line of treatment for angina. These changes can help reduce the risk factors associated with the condition, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.
There are several medications that can be used to treat angina. Nitrates, which relax the blood vessels and increase blood flow to the heart, are often prescribed to relieve symptoms. Beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers can also be used to reduce the workload of the heart and improve blood flow. Aspirin and other blood-thinning medications may be recommended to reduce the risk of blood clots.
In some cases, procedures may be necessary to treat angina. Angioplasty is a common procedure that involves inserting a small balloon into a blocked artery to open it up and improve blood flow. A stent, or small mesh tube, may be placed in the artery to help keep it open. Coronary artery bypass surgery may be necessary in severe cases where multiple arteries are blocked.
Cardiac rehabilitation programs can be helpful in managing angina. These programs provide education on lifestyle changes, exercise training, and counselling to help patients cope with the condition.
It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment plan for angina.
Where can I get angina diagnosed and treated?
If you have symptoms of angina, you can receive diagnosis and treatment at HeartWest.
HeartWest is the largest cardiology group in the western and northwestern corridors of Melbourne, with 4 major locations and 3 satellite sites.
At HeartWest, our qualified experts will provide you with the best cardiology care. You will experience nothing but professionalism, care and courtesy; from your first interaction with our staff, to going through tests, procedures and consultations.
Our cardiologists have expertise in all fields of adult cardiology, including;
- General cardiology
- Heart failure
- Cardiac imaging (including stress echocardiography)
- Interventional cardiology
- Electrophysiology & pacing
- Cardiothoracic surgery
Contact us for efficient and affordable specialist heart care services.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]