Angina refers to a condition where your heart is not getting enough oxygen to perform it’s job. Angina pain may be in the chest, in your jaw, your arm or in many other spots. It can be a sharp pain or it can be a dull, pressing sensation. It may last minutes or weeks.
Normally, Angina is caused by one of three things. First, it can result from a spasm in the wall of the coronary artery that temporarily constricts the artery and cuts off the heart’s blood supply. Secondly, it can come from a heart wall that has been thickened by high blood pressure. The heart here can demand more oxygen than the hemoglobin in your blood can supply. Finally, a wandering blood clot can momentarily lodge in an artery that has been narrowed by a history of fattening foods.
Angina is serious as a complete shutdown in delivery of blood to the heart will lead to a full heart attack. Fortunately, not everyone who has angina has a heart attack in their future. Despite this, however, anyone with angina should practice sensible heart safe procedures. For example, to help relieve angina and avoid repeat episodes, you might begin to think of the following:
Lower your intake of cholesterol. Limiting cholesterol can prevent angina because accumulations of cholesterol can interfere with the smooth operation of the endothelium, the lining of your blood vessels.
Stop smoking. Smoke pulls oxygen out of your blood and constricts blood vessels, triggering angina rooted in either arterial spasm or narrowed arteries.
Lose Weight. Extra weight raises blood pressure and high blood pressure can increase angina.
Manage Stress. Stress adds to your heart’s workload. This requires your heart to get additional oxygen, which in turn can lead to angina.
Exercise. Even though the first response to angina is rest, that doesn’t mean that you should lay around when you’re not actually having pain. The heart is a muscle and it needs exercise to stay in shape. A well-conditioned heart uses oxygen more efficiently and is less prone to angina.
If you have angina pain that persists for more than a few minutes you should go see your doctor. Your doctor will probably give you a prescription for nitroglycerin (such as Nitrostat). Nitro dilates the heart’s arteries and relieves the symptoms of angina.