An angina attack can be described as a squeezing sensation in the chest along with pressure. This is not any kind of a disease, but a sign that indicates improper functioning of the heart. In other words, it is a symptom of a common form of heart disease known as coronary artery disease (CAD). The coronary arteries present in our body are responsible for supplying oxygen-rich blood to the heart.
When there are fatty deposits (plaque), on the inner wall of these arteries, then sufficient oxygen is unable to reach the heart and it leads to coronary heart disease. People who are above the age of 50 are at a higher risk of getting this problem. Such attacks in women are less common than in men. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, anemia, smoking, etc., are other risk factors responsible for causing angina.
Angina Attack Vs. Heart Attack
Angina occurs because of a condition called myocardial ischemia. This condition arises when the heart muscles do not receive as much of oxygen (or blood) as it requires for performing certain tasks. The amount of blood reaching the heart is enough to carry out normal activities, but the increased need of oxygen is not being met. In such cases, physical exertion or emotional excitement, where the heart starts beating rapidly and requires more oxygen, can trigger the symptoms of this attack. The chest pain due to this condition, is mild and does not cause lasting harm to the heart muscles.
On the other hand, a heart attack is caused when the supply of blood to a particular section of the heart muscles decreases drastically. It happens when any of the coronary arteries get blocked, due to plaque deposits. It can also get blocked due to the presence of a blood clot inside the artery. The pain due to a heart attack is severe, and if the supply of blood to the heart becomes very low, it can cause irreparable damage to the heart and even death.
The first sign of an angina is a radiating pain, which is also described by many people as tightness or heaviness of the chest and is felt in the middle of the chest. It mostly sets in while doing physical activities like exercises, walking after meals in cold weather, or because of mental stress.
The pain may extend towards the neck, throat, arms, shoulders, and jaws. The chest pain is accompanied by symptoms, like, difficulty in breathing, sweating, and a feeling of choking. Typically, the symptoms of angina last hardly for a few minutes. If you notice angina symptoms, you should take some rest and you will feel better. Then visit a doctor for further treatment.
The diagnosis of angina involves physical examination of the patients and certain laboratory tests, like electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, angiogram, blood tests, etc. The condition is treated with the help of medicines and if required, surgery is also conducted. First of all, a nitrate drug is administered to ease off the pain associated with such attacks. It is available in the form of a spray as well as a tablet, which has to be kept under the tongue.
Then, aspirin is prescribed to reduce the chances of blood clotting, medicines are given to bring down the blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the blood. In case, the condition of the patient is serious, surgical intervention is required. There are two different types of surgical procedures for treating this condition.
One is angioplasty, wherein, a small balloon attached to the end of a tube is threaded into a blood vessel in the groin and is inflated once it reaches the blocked coronary artery. This way the blocked part of the artery is widened. The other procedure is a bypass surgery, wherein, veins from legs or chest are used to bypass the blockage in the artery and thus, the flow of blood is directed through the new blood vessel.
If you have suffered from the above-mentioned heart condition in the past, you must bring about changes in your lifestyle to prevent its recurrence. It includes, following a low cholesterol diet, doing exercises regularly, quitting smoking, maintaining healthy body weight, etc. Last but not the least, taking medicines prescribed by the doctor, on time, is an important step too.