Angina pectoris, also commonly known as angina, is a heart condition which is caused by decreased blood flow to the heart muscles. This results in a squeezing (or tightening) sensation in the chest.
This may become a recurrent condition or often come as a sudden and acute health situation.
This is a comparatively common heart condition but often gets difficult to distinguish between other similar heart condition’s symptoms, such as chest pain or indigestion. In case you experience unexplained pain in the chest it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention.
The commonly seen signs and symptoms of angina pectoris include:
The pain in the chest often feels like a pressure or a squeezing sensation in the center of the chest. Others may also feel sensation similar to being experienced in indigestion.
The angina’s severity, type and duration are also varied. The symptoms need to be carefully noticed as a change in their pattern can mean a severe angina or even heart attack.
Stable angina is the most common type and is often accompanied after exertion and gets relieved with rest.
In case you notice new symptoms in the chest it is highly-advisable to seek proper and immediate medical attention and treatment.
Stable Angina – This develops as a result of exertion on the heart (such as while climbing stairs and exercising). This can usually be predicted and the pain felt is also similar to the previous types of prevalent chest pains. This condition is acute and lasts for around 5 minutes or less and disappears as soon as the body gets rest or angina medication is taken.
Unstable Angina – This is a rare form of angina pectoris and shows a change in pattern of pain in the chest. This occurs suddenly and unexpectedly and is comparatively more severe and longer in duration than stable angina pectoris, may last to around 30 minutes. This condition is not relieved with rest or angina medications and might also signal a heart attack if left untreated for long.
Angina pectoris is caused mainly due to lack of sufficient blood supply to the heart muscles. The muscles in the heart require the oxygen in the blood to function normally. When the level of oxygen being received by the heart muscles gets lowered it results in a condition called as ‘ischemia’.
Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common cause of decreased blood supply to the heart muscles. This may be caused due to the narrowing of the arteries by plaque which is called as atherosclerosis.
Stable angina is caused when the physical exertion results in decreased heart functioning due to insufficient blood supply and the resultant lack of oxygen in the muscles of the heart. Emotional stress, cold and heavy meals also triggers this condition by narrowing the arteries.
In case the plaques (fatty deposits) in the artery rupture and form blood clots, this can also result in loss of blood supply partially or completely through the narrowed artery. This is the main cause of unstable angina pectoris.
These are the identified risk factors that are known to increase the chances of developing angina pectoris in a person:
Tobacco – Using tobacco products from a long time causes hardening of the inner walls of the arteries and can lead to angina due to reduced blood supply from the affected artery.
Diabetes – Diabetes increases the risk of developing angina as it leads to coronary artery disease.
High Blood Pressure – Higher blood pressure for a prolonged period of time is known to damage the arteries and cause angina due to lowered blood flow.
High Blood Cholesterol Levels – Cholesterol is the major cause of plaque (fatty deposits) developing in the arteries which narrows the artery and causes a decrease in the blood flow. This can lead to the development of angina pectoris. Learn how Cholesterol and Heart Disease are Interrelated…
Age – Men who are more than 45 years old and women who are older than 55 years are at more risk of developing angina pectoris.
Lack of Exercise – Inactive lifestyle results in high cholesterol blood levels, higher blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity all which are known to increase the chances of angina in a person.
A complete physical examination will be performed by the doctor initially and they will check the noticeable symptoms as well.
These are the additional diagnostic tests performed to detect angina pectoris in a person:
There are several treatment options for angina pectoris such as changing lifestyle, medications, angioplasty/stenting as well as coronary artery bypass surgery. The main aim of any form of treatment in this disorder is to decrease the frequency and severity of the symptoms as well as to lower the risk of the condition worsening and resulting in heart attack or even death.
However, in case of unstable angina and severe angina pain it is advisable to seek prompt and effective medical attention. These are the common treatment methods of angina pectoris:
Lifestyle changes – In case the angina is detected to be mild in nature a few changes in the daily lifestyle can help reduce the symptoms. You can quit smoking, lose excess weight if obese, control your diabetes better, avoid unnecessary exertion and large meals as well as try avoiding stress.
Medications – The medications include nitrates which help to relax and widen the arteries (blood vessels) and avoid constricting and the resultant loss in blood flow. Clot prevention medications are also helpful in avoiding angina caused by blood clots.
Surgeries – Balloon Angioplasty and Stenting is a combined surgical procedure often used to treat angina. This requires inserting a stent into the narrowed artery using a deflated surgical balloon. The balloon inflates and widens the affected artery while a mesh coil (stent) is placed to keep the artery widened in the new position. Coronary artery bypass (CAB) is also performed to treat angina pectoris. This surgery uses minimally invasive surgical methods (catheter) to create a bypass over the blocked artery (blood vessel) and allow blood to flow normally through it.
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