Angina

By: Joe Swails


What is angina?
Angina is a cardiovascular disease (a CVT) which mainly affects men and women of advanced age. It is a very debilitating condition characterised by the sudden onset of symptoms which can render the sufferer as if ‘frozen to the spot’, clutching their chest, and unable to walk even a few steps.

Symptoms
Symptoms of angina can include:

pain or discomfort in the chest (like a sudden tightening)

a feeling of something pressing down upon your chest – as if you are being crushed by a heavy weight

a strangling feeling

discomfort and pain spreading through other parts of your body, such as: your arms, neck and back

breathlessness

feelings of indigestion

anxiety

excessive sweating

nausea

dizziness

exhaustion, and

belching

Causes
Angina is caused by the hardening and narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis). As this worsens, the blood supply to the heart is severely restricted. This is why you will experience a sudden onset of symptoms when attempting to undertake a physical activity such as climbing the stairs or going for a walk. You will find yourself having to stop to ‘catch your breath’ until the tightening in your chest dissipates.

Stress and agitation can exacerbate symptoms.

You are more likely to develop angina if you smoke, are overweight and are over 60 years of age.

Diagnosis
If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms and feel you may have angina, arrange an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. After taking your medical history, he or she will ask your some questions about your symptoms, your lifestyle habits, and also if you can identify certain triggers that onset symptoms, before carrying out the following tests:

A blood test – to check for things such as high glucose levels, anaemia and excessive cholesterol (all of which can be linked with angina)

Blood pressure tests

Weight and waist size measurement

You may then be referred to a cardiologist for further tests, such as an ECG (Electrocardiograph) which – if angina is diagnostically confirmed – helps to measure to what stage your condition has progressed.

Note: To assess whether you may have a genetic predisposition to developing angina, your GP may also ask you about other family members.

Treatment
Symptoms of angina can be immediately relieved by taking glyceryl trinitrate – a prescribed medication from your GP.

Other treatments include:

Beta-blockers which slow down the heart rate and make the heart beat more gently (therefore requiring less blood)

Surgery – a tiny balloon is temporarily inserted into your narrowed arteries and then inflated – to widen them and allow blood to flow more fully

Advice & Support
British Heart Foundation
14 Fitzhardinge Street
London W1H 6DH
Tel: 08450 708070
Web: www.bhf.org.uk

British Cardiac Patients Association
2 Station Road
Swavesey
Cambridgeshire
CB4 5QL
Tel: 01223 846845
Web: www.bcpa.co.uk

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