Angina is a type of chest pain caused by coronary heart disease, where blood flow to the heart is limited by clogged arteries. Blood carries and other nutrients throughout our body so if not enough blood gets to the heart muscle, the heart will not have enough oxygen to work properly. Angina is usually described as discomfort, heaviness, pressure, tightness, aching or squeezing and is often mistaken for indigestion. Angina is usually felt in the chest, but may be felt in the jaw, shoulders, back, arm or neck. Angina is an underlying symptom of heart disease, but is not a disease in and of itself. Angina should not be ignored because it could be the sign of a heart attack. If you have unexplained chest pain, seek medical attention.
Risk factors for angina include previous personal or family history of heart disease or heart attack. Men over 45 years of age and women over 55 are also at an increased risk. Other factors which increase an individual’s risk for experiencing angina include tobacco use, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides, lack of exercise, obesity and high levels of stress
To diagnose angina, a physician will perform a physical exam and ask about the history of heart disease in your family. More tests might be required to diagnose heart disease, such as blood tests and imaging (e.g. x-rays). Lifestyle changes can help prevent angina. Eating large meals, stressful situations and exercising very hard can bring on episodes of angina. Medications such a nitroglycerin are commonly used to treat angina and can be taken to relieve pain. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with angina, talk to your physician or cardiologist (heart doctor) about the most current treatments.