Angina, according to Merriam-Webster, is a heart disease that causes brief periods of intense chest pain.
The symptoms of angina as enumerated in A Year of Health Hints are:
- Squeezing pressure or heaviness or mild ache in the chest.
- A feeling that you’re choking or shortness of breath.
- A feeling of aching in the chest muscles, jaw, one or both arms, neck and/or back.
- A sensation of heaviness, tingling, or numbness (most commonly in the left arm).
- A feeling of gas in the upper abdomen and lower chest.
The following are the similarities between angina and a heart attack:
- Both can be caused by a build-up of fatty plaque (atherosclerosis) in the heart arteries, blocking or slowing delivery of blood to the heart.
- In both, the pain can be felt in the chest, arms, shoulders, and/or neck.
- Both may be brought on by extreme physical exertion.
- Both are most prevalent in men who are 50 and older and women who are past menopause.
But there is a key difference: A heart attack leaves damaged or injured heart muscle in its wake; angina does not. Rather, anginal pain is a warning sign of a potential heart attack. The discomfort indicates that the heart isn’t getting enough blood.
A doctor, the article continues, can diagnose angina as stable or unstable. Unstable angina, a symptom of coronary artery disease, requires immediate attention. High blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, or a family history of atherosclerotic heart disease increase the odds of angina.
If you’ve experienced angina, the following steps can head off further attacks:
- Consult your doctor or cardiologist. He or she will probably prescribe a medication to temporarily dilate, or widen, the coronary arteries.
- Don’t smoke. Nicotine in cigarettes constricts the arteries and prevents proper blood flow.
- Avoid large, heavy meals; eat lighter meals throughout the day.
- After eating, rest or engage in some quiet activity.
- Minimize exposure to cold, windy weather.
- Lower your cholesterol level, if high.
- Follow a low-fat, low-saturated fat diet.
- Take lipid-lowering medicines if prescribed.
- Avoid sudden physical exertion, such as running to catch a bus.”
Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010. www.healthylife.com