Angina pectoris is a severe chest pain indicating a heart problem. It is technically not a disease, but a symptom. But how is it caused, and how is it treated?
Definition: what is angina pectoris?
Angina pectoris, sometimes known simply as angina, is a chest pain occurring most commonly after intense force or stress. It is not a disease, but a cardiac symptom of a coronary condition.
The risks of getting angina pectoris increase with age and are higher in men than in women. As a matter of fact, cardiovascular diseases are the first cause of death in men and it is therefore important to consult a doctor as soon as the first symptoms appear.
Symptoms: how to recognise angina pectoris
The first symptom of angina pectoris is chest pain mainly located behind the sternum. In some cases, it can also occur around the neck area, shoulders, the left arm, the back or the jawbone. It generally appears after physical activity or strong emotion.
This pain starts by a feeling of pressure and constriction around the chest lasting for many minutes. It is generally accompanied by feelings of oppression, anxiety or a fast heartbeat.
It is referred to as stable angina pectoris when the pains are old and don’t get aggravated with time. Unstable angina pectoris (or acute coronary syndrome) bring back recent or older pains, but often with a variable intensity and it is taken very seriously. In fact, in the most serious cases, angina can cause a myocardial infarction and therefore can be potentially deadly.
Causes of angina pectoris
In the majority of cases, angina pectoris is due to arthrosclerosis. This is a phenomenon which corresponds to a graduated deposition of lipids in the interior walls of coronary arteries as a result of a diet that is rich in cholesterol. This leads to the formation of plaque which little by little causes the blood vessels to narrow.
Blood circulation therefore becomes more difficult and that heart can’t receive enough blood and therefore oxygen, which it needs. This is what we call a coronary insufficiency. Angina pectoris normally appears when the diameter of the arteries is cut by half.
Some factors can play a role in the appearance of angina such as family history, high cholesterol levels, tobacco consumption, diabetes, high blood pressure or physical activity.
Treatment: how to treat angina pectoris
Angina pectoris attacks can be cured quickly by taking Glyceryl Trinitrate. This is a tablet that is placed under the tongue which dilates the arteries and quickly relieves pain.
Treatment for angina requires long-term drug management and this aims to restore good vascularisation, in order to reduce pain and the risks of serious complications such as a heart attack.
Upon completing treatment, it is important to look into reducing the risk factors by adapting your lifestyle.