The heart is a vital organ in the human body. Its main role is to pump blood to the other organs. Angina pectoris occurs when the heart muscle isn't receiving enough blood to perform its role properly. It's a warning sign that the heart is under stress.
There are different types of angina. Symptoms typically include the following:
- Pain, tightness, heaviness, or discomfort in the chest
- Chest pain that spreads to the arms, neck, jaw, shoulders, and/or back
- A burning sensation in the chest (similar to heartburn)
- Difficulty breathing
- Dizziness or weakness
Angina that is triggered by physical activity, lasts 5-15 minutes, and is relieved with rest or nitroglycerin (an emergency medication) is known as stable angina. Unstable angina, on the other hand, occurs at rest, lasts longer (more than 20 minutes), and is not relieved by rest or nitroglycerin. It can sometimes lead to a heart attack.
Causes and triggers
The heart's arteries can become partially blocked over time by the buildup of plaque-an accumulation of fat, cholesterol, and other substances. When the heart has to work harder, this plaque prevents it from getting the additional blood it needs.
Angina pectoris can be brought on by physical exertion, but also by emotional stress or a heavy meal.
Factors that increase the risk of angina include the following:
Angina is treated with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. It's important to take your medication as prescribed. Don't stop taking it without first consulting a health care professional. In addition, if you have been prescribed nitroglycerin as emergency medication, be sure to keep it with you at all times.
The following lifestyle changes are also recommended:
- Quit smoking
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Reduce stress
- Adopt a healthy and balanced diet
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise according to your fitness level
When should I see a health care professional?
Consult your health care provider if you experience chest pain.
If you've already been diagnosed with angina, see a health care professional immediately if you experience symptoms that meet the following criteria:
- Not relieved by rest or medication
- More than 15 minutes in duration