When the blood flow to the heart muscles gets reduced due to some reason, it can cause angina or heart pain. The arteries of the heart muscles get narrowed due to insufficient blood flow. Angina is not a disease but is a symptom of the heart problem called coronary heart disease. Angina can occur to anyone but is more common in age group of 50 years or above than others. Angina can be treated by diagnosing the underlying heart problem and suitable medications are given.
When angina can occur?
Angina can occur anytime but it develops during high emotional moments, exertion, and sometimes after a hefty meal. Since the coronary arteries get narrowed and constricted only limited blood flow is available during those moments causing heart pain. In some people, angina can develop due to rare disorders of heart muscles or valves.
Aorta is the main artery that supplies blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Coronary artery is a big artery that takes blood to the heart muscle. There will be normal blood supply while you are resting or sleeping. But the heart muscles demands increased blood supply during stressful moments or while you are exercising. If that demand cannot be met by the heart muscles due to narrowing of coronary artery it causes angina or discomfort in your heart.
Angina can develop due to narrowing of coronary arteries. This condition can occur due to atheroma or formation of plaque like particles inside the arteries. When these plaque forms inside arteries, it can obstructs the normal blood flow. This condition usually develops as a process over number of months or years. It can cause blockage in one or more arteries thus interrupting with the normal blood flow.
One of the major symptoms of angina is chest pain. It can also cause symptoms like tightness in the chest or shortness of breath and discomfort feeling in your heart. Pain can also occur in the neck portion, abdomen and arms. The person can feel a burning pain or squeezing pain in the chest region. Many times angina is misunderstood for acidity or heart burn. The pain can be felt directly on the heart or sometimes it will progress towards the arms or neck or even on your shoulders. Pain caused by angina will be there for only few minutes and it will go off if you take rest. Angina can also cause sweating and nauseated feeling.
Many times, angina gets unnoticed or misunderstood for other reasons. If your doctor suspects angina he may order for electrocardiogram test (both while resting and while running on a treadmill) and blood profile to detect any thyroid hormone problems, diabetes, cholesterol level and anemia. In some cases the doctor would advise MRI scan or angiogram test to check any abnormality in the coronary artery.
The main goal of treating angina is to prevent its occurrence, to reduce further deposits of plaque like substance and totally to reduce the risk of getting heart attack. Three types of approaches are usually combined for angina. One is to make lifestyle changes, the second is to take medications and the third is to adopt certain medical procedures and therapies. Varieties of drugs are used for treating angina. Most of these medicine helps in relaxing the blood vessels, reducing the cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing the excess of strain on the heart and in preventing further blood clots formation.
- Nitrates :
The most common medication used to prevent angina or heart attack is glyceryl trinitrate called as GTN. It is available in the form of pills or sprays. If you get any chest pain all you have to do is to keep the pill under your tongue. This drug is effectively absorbed into the blood and works within few minutes.
There are people who always carry GTN pills or sprays with them. You can also take these pills before doing any workouts or hard physical activities. There is nothing wrong in taking this tablet for second time if the symptom of chest pain does not disappear. GTN is absorbed into the blood and relaxes the blood vessels of your heart thus increasing the blood flow.
- Statins :
Your doctor may prescribe statin to reduce cholesterol in blood. If you have high cholesterol you have increased risk of developing atheroma and angina. Stain drugs acts by blocking certain enzymes involved in the making of cholesterol.
- Antiplatelets :
Aspirin and several other drugs are prescribed to prevent blood clots. If there are several platelets in your blood it can quickly join to form a clot inside the artery causing angina. Thus by taking aspirin the risk of developing blood clots are reduced. Depending on your health, your doctor may prescribe low dose of aspirin.
- Beta Blockers :
Beta blockers are effective in blocking certain hormones like adrenaline preventing angina and heart attack. Your heart rate may increase when you are anxious and by taking beta blockers the rhythm of heartbeat is streamlined.
- ACE Inhibitors :
Angiotensin Converting Enzymes shortly known as ACE inhibitors prevent in the accumulation of fluids inside heart muscles. ACE inhibitors are prescribed for people with previous attacks or those with reduced heart function. Calcium channel blockers are also effective in reducing the heart rate when you are exercising. Usually a combination of the above drugs is prescribed by your doctor after considering several factors. These medications can cause side effects hence you need to consult your doctor if you experience any changes after starting these drugs.
- Medical Procedures :
For more severe cases of angina and high atheroma deposits, bypass surgery is done. In the process of coronary artery bypass graft CABG, the narrowed sections of arteries are blocked and a bypass is created by grafting. Healthy grafts are taken from other parts of your body to create a graft so that there is no obstruction in the normal blood flow to the heart muscle.
Angioplasty is a procedure used to clear the narrowed sections of the arteries. A tiny wire carrying a balloon like substance is sent into your body through arm and is monitored closely. Once the balloon reaches the narrowed sections of artery it is blown up so that there are enough gaps in the artery to transport enough blood. This surgery is not suitable for all people.
Lifestyle Changes :
It is very much essential for you to make certain changes in your lifestyle once you are diagnosed with high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
- Quit smoking gradually. You can get guidance from your doctor to stop smoking.
- Control your weight. Avoid taking fatty foods and fried items. By losing few pounds you are helping your heart to function effectively.
- If you have high blood pressure monitor it regularly since it can cause angina and even heart attack.
- High cholesterol should be controlled by medications and dieting.
- Doing regular exercises can improve blood circulation and control cholesterol.
- Manage your diet effectively. Watch what you eat by preparing a chart.
- Limit the intake of fat items like meats, cheese and butter. You can take lean red meat and chicken.
- Avoid taking more salty foods since it can induce blood pressure.