Angina pectoris—or simply angina—is chest pain or discomfort that keeps coming back. It happens when some part of your heart doesn't get enough blood and oxygen. Angina can be a symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD). This occurs when arteries that carry blood to your heart become narrowed and blocked because of atherosclerosis or a blood clot. It can also occur because of unstable plaques, poor blood flow through a narrowed heart valve, a decreased pumping function of the heart muscle, as well as a coronary artery spasm.
There are 2 other forms of angina pectoris. They are:
Variant angina pectoris(or Prinzmetal's angina)
Angina pectoris occurs when your heart muscle (myocardium) does not get enough blood and oxygen for a given level of work. Insufficient blood supply is called ischemia.
Anything that causes your heart muscle to need more blood or oxygen supply can result in angina. Risk factors include physical activity, emotional stress, extreme cold and heat, heavy meals, drinking excessive alcohol, and cigarette smoking.
These are the most common symptoms of angina:
Angina chest pain is usually relieved within a few minutes by resting or by taking prescribed cardiac medicine, such as nitroglycerin.
An episode of angina means some part of the heart is not getting enough blood supply. If you have angina, you have an increased risk for a heart attack. Note the pattern of your symptoms—what causes the chest pain, what it feels like, how long it lasts, and whether medicine relieves the pain. If angina symptoms change sharply, or if they happen when you are resting or they start to occur unpredictably, call 911. You may be having a heart attack. Do not drive yourself to the emergency department.The symptoms of angina pectoris may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and medical exam, your healthcare provider can often diagnose angina from your symptoms and how and when they occur. Other tests may include:
Your healthcare provider will determine specific treatment, based on:
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines if you have angina. The most common is nitroglycerin, which helps to relieve pain by widening your blood vessels. This allows more blood flow to your heart muscle and decreases the workload of your heart. Nitroglycerin may be taken as a long-acting form daily to prevent angina. Or, it may be taken as a nose spray, or under the tongue when angina occurs. Don't take sildenafil (for erectile dysfunction) with nitroglycerin. This can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking erectile dysfunction medicines before taking nitroglycerin.Beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers are also used to treat angina.Your healthcare provider may recommend other medicines to help treat or prevent angina.
Angina means that you have coronary artery disease and that some part of your heart is not getting enough blood supply. If you have angina, you have an increased risk for a heart attack.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to delay or prevent angina pectoris. A healthy lifestyle includes:
If you have angina, note the patterns of your symptoms. For example, pay attention to what causes your chest pain, what it feels like, how long episodes usually last, and whether medicine relieves your pain. Call 911 if your angina episode symptoms change sharply. This is called unstable angina.
It is important to work with your healthcare provider to treat your underlying coronary artery disease, which causes angina. You need to control your risk factors: high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, high blood cholesterol levels, lack of exercise, excess weight, and a diet high in saturated fat. Taking you medicines as your healthcare provider directs is an important part of living with angina. If your provider prescribes nitroglycerin, it important that you have it with you at all times and follow his or her directions for using it whenever you have an episode of angina.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider: