Could this chest pain be angina?

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Chest pain can denote several disease conditions ranging from the heart, lungs, muscles, bones and even esophagus (the pipe that carries food from the mouth to the stomach). Chest pain from the above mentioned conditions might look alike and differentiating this from one another could be difficult, this is why other associated symptoms and factors must be put into consideration to make this diagnosis.

What then is angina?

Angina is a form of chest pain that originates from the heart. The heart is made up of muscles. These muscles contract to pump blood from the heart to other part of the body. These muscles also need blood and oxygen to carry out their normal function.

 Sometimes these pipes that carry blood to the muscles of the heart may be blocked or narrowed. This reduces blood and oxygen supply to the muscle of the heart which can lead to chest pain and this can lead to heart attack if the vessel becomes blocked or there is significant shortage of blood supply to the heart. It is worthy of note that in angina, there is no damage to the heart muscle.

What are the symptoms of angina?

  • The major symptom of angina is chest pain, although it usually present as a discomfort on the chest. This may be in form of pressure, heaviness, squeezing, tightness, ache, suffocating or burning feeling at the center of the chest.
  • You may also feel the pain on your jaw, neck, back, shoulder or left arm. You can even have discomfort in your stomach in the form of indigestion.
  • This pain is usually noticed during activity like running, climbing of stairs, excitement, and anxiety and is relieved with rest. It does not last long. 


What are the causes of angina?

Angina usually results when the arteries( the pipe that carries blood and oxygen round the body)  supplying blood to the heart muscle becomes narrowed or blocked. This reduces the blood supply to the heart muscle thereby also reducing the amount of oxygen being supplied.

What causes this narrowing? 

  • Building up of plaques in your arteries can narrow or block these tiny vessels
  • Blood clots can also form in the arteries resulting in this.
  • Sometimes these vessels can undergo spasm leading to shortage of blood supply and oxygen to the heart muscle.

Who is at risk of having angina?

  • Angina is commoner in men after age 45 and women after age 55.
  • If you have any family member who had heart disease at an early age, then you are at higher risk.
  • If you are not active, you sit down all day, you are at risk.
  • If you are overweight, you may be at risk.
  • Smoking and alcohol can enhance angina. This can allow plaques to form in the vessels
  • People with diabetes and hypertension are also at risk.
  • If you eat in an unhealthy manner, you may be at risk

How can you prevent angina?

Healthy lifestyle can help avert a lot of heart problems with angina inclusive. This should include healthy diet, exercise and weight control. Regular checkup is also very important. It helps to detect health problems as early as possible before it starts to affect the body organs. Although there are some risk factors that cannot be changed, focusing on the ones that can be changed can go a long way.

  • Weight control is very important. Being overweight or obese can increase one’s risk of having high blood pressure, diabetes or high blood cholesterol. All these can increase one’s risk of having angina. Too much fat around the waist also poses a threat to the heart. You need to work on reducing your waist circumference as much as you can.
  • Aerobic activities like brisk walking, swimming, running etc. helps the heart to function well. It also helps reduce the blood cholesterol. Having about 30mins of exercise daily and about 150mins weekly for adult can help reduce the risk of heart problems like angina.
  • Smoking increases the risk of having angina and other heart problems. Exposure to fumes and smoke poses equal threat. This makes the heart work harder and reduces oxygen supply to the muscles of the heart. It also damages the inner wall of the arteries leading to build up of plaques. Ensure you stop smoking and reduce alcohol consumption. Alcohol increases the risk of high blood pressure.
  • Healthy eating should be ensured by all. Its end result encompasses several means of preventing angina and other heart problems. Healthy eating helps to maintain a healthy weight, it reduces blood cholesterol and it mops up toxins from the body. You need to reduce your consumption of processed grains and sugar, reduce unhealthy fat like animal fat, take more of whole grains, and take a lot of fruits and vegetables. Nuts, legumes and poultry are also very good for your health and do not forget to reduce your salt and spices intake.
  • Regular checkup can help detect diseases at the early stage. Usually at this stage, most of these problems can be reversed. That is why it is important to ensure you go for regular checkup. Your blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, blood cholesterol should be checked at intervals to ensure a total wellbeing.


How can you prevent/reduce episodes of angina in people with hypertension, diabetes or other health issues?

High blood sugar increase the buildup of plaques in your arteries thereby narrowing them. This can reduce blood supply to the heart muscle during strenuous activities. High blood pressure also makes your heart to work more in other to pump blood, this can weaken your arteries and predispose you to heart diseases. What then can you do to prevent angina or having recurrent episodes?

  • Ensure you take you medications as prescribed.
  • Eat healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. Each diseased conditions has a unique dietary advice attached to it. Make sure you follow you dietician advice.
  • Avoid too much physical activity. Make sure you are certified fit before you engage yourself in physical activities and you will be advised on exercising in a gradual technique. 
  • Avoid emotional stress. It can put more stress on your heart.
  • Do not eat too much at once. You need to avoid anything that will put sudden pressure on your heart.
  • Quit smoking and alcohol.
  • Go for regular checkup. This will help detect and any other health risk on time.

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Dr Kay
About Dr Kay 58 Articles
As a physician, I love to give answers to several questions bothering people, educating them on how to be healthy, breaking down what their present condition is all about and counselling them on how to manage their condition.

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