Question: What do I need to know about Angina?
Angina or chest pain is one of the most common reason people visit their doctor. Nearly 10 million Americans are diagnosed with angina. Angina is defined as chest pain or discomfort caused by heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) defines it as a symptom of the condition known as myocardial ischemia. Pain occurs when the myocardia (the heart muscle) gets insufficient blood and oxygen (ischemia). It is often the first sign of heart disease.
Angina generally signals that you have narrowing in one, or possibly more, of your coronary arteries. Angina is an alarm. It is the heart’s way of telling you that it’s not getting enough oxygen.
The main causes for angina is atherosclerosis or the buildup of cholesterol-laden plaques on the interior walls of your arteries. As plaques grow, it restrict blood flow causing pain. Keep in mind, if plaque tears or ruptures, a blood clot can form that completely blocks blood flow. This usually causes a heart attack which probably means irreversible damage to your heart muscle.
Several risk factors accelerate the formation of plaques. Some of these factors are beyond the control of the individual. For example, if you have a family history of heart disease, you are more likely to develop heart disease. This is one reason your physician is interested in your family history. Age is another uncontrollable factor. The older you are, the longer you are around for plaque to develop.
Other factors are in your control. Those are the ones we constantly discussed. Smoking, overweight and a diet high is salt are all factors that damage the thin layer of protective cells that line the interior surface of blood vessel.
Symptoms of for angina are tightness and pressure in your chest. You may have numbness or tingling in your jaw, shoulders, arms and fingers. You may also have sweating, breathlessness, nausea or fatigue.
If you feel you may have any of these symptoms or risk factors, contact your primary care physician so he/she can refer you to a Cardiologist for the treatment of angina. Remember, time is heart muscle.