Angina Symptoms in Men and Women

What is angina?. Medically speaking, angina is a serious condition that causes severe chest pains or discomforts. This condition normally happens when there is insufficient flow of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. The chest pains or discomforts at some point may feel like a pressure or squeezing sensation in the chest cavity.

Coronary artery disease, also known as coronary heart disease is usually the caused of this illness.

Coronary artery disease or CAD for short, is developed as a result of atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is a build up of a material called plaque on the walls of the coronary arteries.

Atherosclerosis causes the coronary arteries to become narrowed and hardened; thus, causing a reduction in the blood and oxygen flow to the heart.

What are the different forms of this pectoris condition?

There are three known types of this condition that individuals can experienced. They are as follows:

  • Stable angina. This is the most commonly diagnosed of the three types. It normally occurs when the heart is working harder than it normally should.
  • Unstable angina. This is an extremely dangerous form of this illness because if an individual develops it, they must seek medical or emergency treatment immediately.

    This form of the illness is normally an indication that an individual is about to experience a real heart attack. This type can occur even if the individual does not show any signs of physical exertion at the time of the attack. Unfortunately rest and medications can not relieve persons of an attack brought on by this type.

  • Variant angina. This one is a rare form that normally happens during rest periods. The pains from this illness can be severe at times and are usually brought on late into the night or early morning. Fortunately for this type of attack, medications can relieve a victim of their symptoms.

A word of caution here: victims have to remember that not all chest pains or discomforts will occur or be related to an angina attack. The pains and discomforts could be an indication of other illnesses such as:

  • A heart attack.
  • A lung infection.
  • Heartburn.
  • A panic attack.

No matter what sort of discomforts they may be, you should get medical assistance immediately.

Common causes of the different type of attacks

As was mentioned earlier, one of the main causes of angina is the lack of oxygen and blood flow to the heart muscle. Another cause is high blood pressure that goes untreated. There are times when a victim's requirement for oxygen is so low, that their heart will still provide sufficient blood flow even though their coronary arteries are or could be severely narrowed, due to atherosclerosis.

However when their need for oxygen increases, their heart will begin to work harder because their coronary arteries are narrowed. This normally happens when their physical activity level have increased. An example of this would be when they have to climb a flight of stairs.

  • The Stable form. Is caused by physical exertion, emotional stress, exposure to very hot or very cold temperatures. It can also be triggered by eating heavy meals and of cause smoking.
  • The Unstable form. Blood clots in the arteries are normally the caused for this type and it can cause partially or complete blockage of a coronary artery. The blood clots can be the cause of the chest pains or discomforts for each time an attack is experienced.
  • The Variant form. This type is caused by spasms in the coronary arteries which can lead to the tightening of the artery walls. This condition eventually causes the arteries to become very narrowed; thus, reducing or completely stopping the flow blood and oxygen to the heart muscle.

    There are other causes of these spasms in the arteries that can include things like exposure to cold, stressful conditions, medications that cause constrictions or narrowing of the blood vessels, use of illegal drugs, and the use of tobacco.

Test procedures that are used for diagnosing angina

Ideally there are times when a medical doctor can diagnosed the symptoms of an attack simply by the order in which they occur. However diagnosing the problem sometimes requires an individual to undergo a series of test procedures, that can determined if they in fact do have the illness.

These particular test procedures are as follows:

  • Electrocardiogram or EKG. This test measures the heart rate and the regularity of its beats.
  • Stress test. When the heart is working harder and beating faster, some of the problems associated with it, can be more easily diagnosed.
  • Chest X-rays.
  • Nuclear heart scan.
  • Echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves that create a moving photo of the heart of an individual.
  • Cardiac catheterization.
  • Coronary angiography.
  • Fasting lipo-protein profile. This is done to determined the cholesterol level of the person.
  • C-reactive protein test. This is a blood test that measures the level of a protein called CRP in the blood stream. It will also show any signs of inflammation which is the body's way of responding to any injuries.

    If there are high levels of this protein in the blood stream, then it could lead or be a cause for the development of coronary artery disease.

Medications used in treating angina

Although an angina attack is not a considered a heart attack, it does put an individual at a greater risk for having one. A person's risk is even greater if they have the unstable form of the condition. Fortunately, there are some medications that can be prescribed to treat the illness right away. These medications can include one or more of the following:

  • Nitrates. These type of medications are prescribed more frequently than others. They treat the angina condition by causing the blood vessels to become relax and open up to the point that they allow more blood and oxygen to flow to the heart of the victim. This reduces the workload or stress of the heart as well.

    The most commonly used form of nitrates is called nitroglycerin. Doctors usually prescribed the ones that will quickly dissolved under the tongue or between the cheeks and gum of the victim. The pill or patch form of the drug, are normally prescribed as a treatment in the prevention of an angina attack.

    According to medical facts, these type of nitroglycerin treatments are not well suited for immediate relief of the chest pains and discomforts brought on by an attack. Simply because their reaction time are too slow.

  • Beta blockers. These type of medications are normally prescribed by doctors because they are known to slow down an individual's heart rate and lower their high blood pressure at the same. Ideally they can also delay an angina attack.
  • Calcium channel blockers. These particular type of medications, are used because they cause an individual's blood vessels to relax which will allow more blood and oxygen to flow to the heart muscle. By achieving this, the chest pains and discomforts that are associated with these sort of attacks are reduced.
  • Angiotensin Converting Enzymes. These are also known as ACE inhibitors and are prescribed to patients because they lower their high blood pressure. This eventually reduces the strain placed on their heart as well. These particular drugs can also decrease an individual's risk for having a heart attack or experiencing heart failure in the future.

Additional treatments of a pectoris attack

Because conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and blood clots can cause other health problems for victims of an angina attack, doctors may prescribed other medications that treat or delay and in some cases prevent these other health problems.

When medications fail to treat an angina attack

There are certain medical procedures, that are commonly used by doctors to treat an attack victim. These are normally used when regular prescription drugs like the ones listed above, fail to treat the condition. These medical procedures may include:

  • Angioplasty. This procedure focuses on having the blocked coronary arteries opened surgically to allow more blood and oxygen to flow to the heart.

    At this point, doctors may also surgically insert a mesh tube otherwise known as a stent. The stent is inserted directly into the artery of the victim - which will aid in in keeping it open. These mesh tubes are sometimes coated with a special medication to help in the treatment as well.

  • Coronary artery bypass. This a special medical procedure that involves a technique where doctors remove arteries or veins from one part of the victim's body and then sew them into place where they will act as a bypass for the original blocked arteries.

    The procedure will help improve the blood and oxygen flow to the heart and it can prevent heart attacks.

How can I prevent an angina attack?

Persons with coronary artery disease, can prevent an angina attack by simply making some required lifestyle changes and treating their illness at the same time. These lifestyle changes should include:

  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Treating your high blood pressure.
  • Treating your high cholesterol level.
  • Reducing your weight to a healthy one.
  • Stop smoking and if you don't, don't start.
  • Increase your physical activity level by enrolling in a health and fitness program.
  • Properly manage your diabetes by taking the required medications that your doctor/s prescribed for you.

Controlling angina attacks

Remember there are three different types of angina illnesses. Therefore knowing what brings on the symptoms of each one, will better prepare you for any attacks and help guide you in taking the necessary steps to control or prevent them.

Some things an individual should always try and control is their emotional stress, their physical activities, and the quantity of their meals. By taking these necessary steps, individuals can control or lessen the severity of stable, unstable, and variant types of angina.

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