What is Angina?
In layman’s terms, angina is chest pain–specifically chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. While angina may have symptoms itself, it’s actually a symptom of coronary artery disease. Angina is also known as angina pectoris or myocardial ischemia (x).
Angina is far from a heart attack, but it can feel like one. In fact, it may be a warning sign of a heart attack and happens very swiftly. It could be a recurring pain or could happen only once.
Angina can be stable or unstable (x) Stable angina usually occurs when performing extreme physical exercise. Unstable angina occurs without warning and worsens over time. A third type of angina, prinzmetal angina, is also temporary, caused by a spasm of one or more coronary arteries (x).
Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if the symptoms you’re experiencing are due to angina. Chest pain can be mistaken as indigestion, for example.
But heart disease is serious: it’s the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women (x). Therefore, you shouldn’t take angina lightly. If you’re experiencing chest pains, call for medical help immediately.
Is Angina Cardiac Arrest?
The more often you experience angina, the more likely you are to have a heart attack. If you think you are experiencing cardiac arrest, stop what you’re doing, tell someone what you’re feeling, and call an ambulance immediately. The sooner you get medical attention, the more likely you are to survive a heart attack.
Be on the lookout for the following symptoms of angina:
If you experience angina, chest pain is most likely the first symptom you will notice. Reduced blood flow to your heart causes this pain.
Chest pain can vary. Some describe a tight, gripping, or squeezing sensation. It can also manifest as pressure, fullness, or burning. Angina can also cause aching, discomfort, heaviness, pressing, or crushing in the chest. The pain may be mild to severe (x).
The burning and aching are often mistaken for heartburn or gas, but if they occur frequently, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Pain and Discomfort
In addition to chest pain, angina can bring about overall pain throughout the body. Typically, you’ll feel angina in the center of your chest or behind your breastbone, but it may also spread to your back, neck, and jaw. You may also feel pain in one or both shoulders, arms or hands (x).
In some cases, you may feel pain everywhere except your chest. And in some cases, it may not even feel painful; sometimes, it’s only discomfort in the chest paired with shortness of breath. Nevertheless, you should still call your doctor if this sensation persists (x).
Nausea, Fatigue and Shortness of Breath
Nausea is one of the atypical symptoms of angina. In general, women experience nausea with angina more often than men, and it’s more common in stable angina (x).
Other atypical symptoms include fatigue and shortness of breath. Sometimes, stable angina may occur when you overexert yourself, such as pain when you’re walking uphill or in cold weather. A doctor can determine if this pain is stable or unstable angina. You should never self-diagnose or assume that pain is nothing, especially if you have a family history of heart disease (x).
Angina in Women
Research suggests that there is gender discrepancy in angina–meaning that women experience different symptoms than men.
Since many symptoms of angina in women are atypical, many women fail to correctly identify it, which leads to delayed medical treatment. Women who experience angina often describe the following symptoms: nausea, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, discomfort in the neck, jaw or back; and finally stabbing pain not quite like chest pressure (x).
Causes of Angina
Angina is an indicator of heart disease. It is caused by fatty tissue called plaque. When plaque clogs your arteries, it reduces blood flow to the heart.
Other common causes of angina include:
- Pulmonary embolism– a blocked major artery in the lung
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy- an enlarged or thickened heart
- Aortic stenosis– a narrowed valve in the main part of the heart
- Pericarditis– swollen sac around the heart
- Aortic dissection- a tear in the wall of your aorta, the largest artery in your body
Angina Supplements and Remedies
You should always talk to a doctor if you’re experiencing recurring or severe chest pain, or call an ambulance.
While you can’t stop a heart attack with supplements, you can take them to help support your heart health.
Supplements for Circulation
Since blocked blood flow in the artery often causes angina, supplements that promote healthy circulation may help prevent heart disease. Try taking ginkgo biloba, cayenne pepper, and ginger root to improve your circulation and reduce inflammation.
Heart Health Supplements
Heart supplements may reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Supplements that support healthy heart function include:
Natural or not, any remedies should always be prescribed by your doctor. Most medicines and supplements will widen or relax blood vessels to promote circulation, slow the heart down so that it doesn’t have to work as hard, or prevent blood clots.
If your heart disease is serious, your doctor may recommend surgery to correct the problem. In an angioplasty/stent procedure, the doctor uses a tiny tube to thread a balloon through a blood vessel and into your heart. By inflating the balloon, it widens the artery to promote healthy blood flow.
In a bypass surgery, a doctor takes healthy arteries or veins from one part of your body and redirects blood flow from the clogged artery through the new vein. The new vein bypasses the old one, ensuring your heart functions properly.
You can also reduce your risk of heart disease by leading an active lifestyle. However, if you have a history of heart problems, it’s important to listen to your body. Don’t engage in physical activity that is too straining, and eat smaller meals to reduce indigestion. Avoid activity that can worsen your heart condition.
The Bottom Line
Angina is chest pain that occurs when blood flow to the heart is reduced. One of the risk factors of heart disease, angina can be a serious indicator that you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
While there are natural and surgical remedies for angina, the most important thing is to consult your doctor at the first sign of any symptoms. It could save your life.