Angina: Related Links

Doug Limon: Angina

What is angina?

Angina is not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying heart problem. It usually results from coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease, which occur when plaque builds up on the inner walls of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. There are four major types of angina: stable, unstable, variant and microvascular. Each has different symptoms and require different treatments. Stable angina is the most common type. It occurs when the heart is working harder than usual, most often with physical exertion. It has a regular pattern and usually goes away with rest or medication. Unstable angina does not follow a pattern, and tends to be more severe. Caused by blood clots, it is a sign that a heart attack may happen soon, and is therefore a medical emergency. Variant angina is rare, accounting for only about 2 out of every 100 angina cases. It is caused by a spasm in a coronary artery, and usually occurs while the body is at rest. Microvascular angina can be more severe and last longer than other types. Caused by plaque buildup, spams or damaged walled of the smallest coronary arteries, medication may be ineffective in treating it.

What are the signs and symptoms?

People with angina experience pain or discomfort when an area of the heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina pain often feels like pressure, squeezing, burning or tightness, and can be present in the chest, shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw or back. It may even feel like indigestion. Other symptoms include nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, sweating and weakness. Men and women often experience different symptoms – for example, women are more likely to feel discomfort in the neck, throat, jaw, abdomen or back.

Methods of treatment

If you are at risk for coronary heart disease, you are at risk for angina. Reducing your risk factors for CHD – lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight and eating a heart-healthy diet, among others – will reduce your likelihood of developing angina. If you have been diagnosed with angina, your doctor will prescribe treatment that reduces angina-associated pain and discomfort by addressing your underlying heart condition.