If you have angina your chest will feel tight when you exercise or when you are feeling under stress. Angina is a heart condition that occurs when the coronary arteries (the tubes that deliver oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle) become restricted and limit blood flow to the heart.
- Chest pain
- Feeling sick
What causes angina?
Fatty deposits build up in our arteries over time causing them to narrow and harden (a condition called coronary atherosclerosis). This reduces the blood’s ability to flow to the heart. Angina only strikes when our heart needs an extra boost of blood - for example when we are climbing stairs or if we are feeling very stressed. At such times the heart tries to pump faster to increase its blood supply but because the arteries have become narrow the supply doesn’t come in fast enough. We experience this as a dull, pain which starts in the centre of the chest or on the left side and sometimes spreads to our jaw, neck, back, arms or stomach. The pain usually fades within a minute or two once you are at rest.
There are two main types of angina: stable angina which occurs when the heart has to work hard, and unstable angina which can occur when the heart is at rest. The latter is more severe and implies that the coronary arteries are at risk of blocking entirely to cause a heart attack.
How is angina treated?
Angina is treated with medication to relieve the symptoms during an angina attack, to reduce the number of angina attacks that occur and to prevent the arteries from thickening even more.
Surgery may also be offered including a coronary artery bypass graft where blood is re-routed past a blocked or narrowed section of artery, or a coronary angioplasty where the artery is widened with a stent.
Alternative Remedies & Self-help
The risk of angina developing or worsening can be lessened by making lifestyle changes including giving up smoking, exercising and eating healthily.