The Anatomy Of Angina: Understanding Chest Pain And What Causes It

If you've been experiencing attacks of chest pain and have been told you are suffering from angina, you're probably wondering what it means for the future of your health. Understanding the anatomy of angina and what to expect can help you work with your doctor to manage your chest pain.

What is angina?

In its own right, angina is not a disease. It is the term used for pain that occurs when the muscular wall of the heart temporarily does not receive enough oxygen. In the event where no underlying conditions exist, the coronary arteries that supply blood flow to the heart muscle would be able to compensate for this shortage of oxygen.

However, if an underlying condition exists, it can prevent the coronary arteries from being able to supply the amount of blood necessary for the heart muscle to function properly. For instance, if you have coronary artery disease, it can make it difficult for the coronary arteries to cope with an increased demand for blood to the heart muscle.

Some other conditions that can cause angina include high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, anemia, and aortic stenosis.

If you have any condition that restricts normal blood flow to the heart muscle, you may not experience any chest pain during normal activities. However, when an extra demand is placed on the heart you will develop chest pain.

Exercise, feeling strong emotions, or being exposed to extremes in temperature are events that can bring on the symptoms of angina.

Angina versus other causes of chest pain

Many things can cause chest pain to occur. Stomach disorders and indigestion are some of the typical causes. The pain of angina is unique and is usually felt in the center of the chest. The pain can spread to the jaw, throat, back, and arms. The classic pain of angina is a dull, constricting, and heavy pain.

The main characteristic of angina is the fact that it is typically brought on by activity and relieved with rest. You may also experience dizziness, sweating, nausea, and some difficulty in breathing.

You may also notice the symptoms when you are outdoors in extremely cold weather or when you become emotional or excited. The pain will usually go away when you calm down or return to normal temperatures.

What can you do to manage angina?

The treatment and management of your angina will depend on the underlying cause. You will need to be under the care of a physician who will run tests to determine the cause of your chest pain.

Medication is likely to be prescribed to take when you have an attack. This medication is placed under the tongue and can stop the pain quickly. Your doctor may recommend you take the medication prior to physical activity in some instances.

You should also strive to improve your health and avoid any additional strain on the heart. If you smoke, you should stop or cut down as much as possible. If you are overweight, you should reduce your weight and eat healthy. Follow your doctor's advice on exercise. Angina should not prevent you from participating in being active, but you must always consult with your physician or cardiologist regarding your activity level.

Living with angina does not have to cripple your lifestyle. Work closely with your physician, such as Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology, to manage your condition. With the proper medical care and doing your part to manage your overall health, you should be able to enjoy most of your normal activities of daily living and reduce the occurrence of angina attacks.