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Angina can be caused by an insufficient supply of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. The body responds to this oxygen deprivation with pain (many people refer to the pain as tightness or pressure) in the chest, arms, shoulders, neck and/or jaw. Some people also experience shortness of breath, fatigue, sweating, dizziness and/or vomiting. It is most frequently caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries. The narrowing is due to buildup of fatty deposits (plaque or atherosclerosis) within the artery walls.
Do not ignore these warning signs, as they are strong indicators of an impending cardiac event. If you experience chest pain, immediately call 9-1-1. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.
During angina, temporarily there is not enough oxygenated blood getting to a portion of the heart muscle. During a heart attack, narrowing effectively blocks the coronary artery, preventing any oxygenated blood from flowing to that part of the heart muscle, which can lead to heart muscle death.
There are usually three characteristics that distinguish angina from a heart attack. They are:
Chest pain is evaluated several different ways, but most often your doctor will order a simple test called an electrocardiogram (EKG). This test monitors the electrical activity within the heart and can aid your doctor in determining if your condition is angina or if you are actually having a heart attack. The doctor may also order blood tests that can determine if there is damage to the heart muscle.
Other possible tests a doctor may order to evaluate chest pain are as follows:
If your doctor concludes you have angina, and are not having a heart attack, he or she will discuss treatment options to 1) care for the condition, and 2) prevent future cardiovascular problems.
There are a variety of treatment options for angina. They include:
There are several medications a doctor can prescribe for angina, depending upon your condition:
There are several procedures that can clear narrowing of the coronary arteries to relieve angina and help prevent a possible heart attack. These procedures include:
If you have been diagnosed with angina, it is extremely important to make lifestyle changes that reduce the risk factors which have contributed to your heart disease. Making such changes can maintain, and in many cases, reverse the damage done to your heart. For more information about prevention of cardiovascular disease, please click here.
Changing your lifestyle to reduce your risk factors is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your overall cardiovascular condition.
Cardiac Rehabilitation is a medically supervised, physician prescribed education and exercise program for people with heart disease or with an increased risk of heart disease.