Angina is a type of pain that your heart puts out telling you that there is a problem. Unlike a heart attack, angina may happen, then go away. This makes it easy to ignore or confuse the pain as something else. If you don't heed the warning, the next pain you have could be from a major heart attack. Here is what you need to know about angina and why it isn't something to ignore.
Angina Indicates a Future Heart Failure
Like any other muscle in your body, the heart needs oxygen to operate properly. It relies on special blood vessels, called coronary arteries, to provide that oxygen to the heart. The amount of oxygen the heart needs depends on how hard the heart is working. During physical exertion, your heart beats harder and needs more oxygen.
When the blood flow and the oxygen to the heart is restricted, the heart becomes oxygen starved. One cause of this can be a partial or fully blocked coronary artery. When the heart cannot get enough oxygen, it sends out a warning sign in the way of chest pain. This pain is called angina, and if you relax when this pain happens and let your heart rate go down, the pain goes away. If you're not aware of the possibility that you have a heart problem, you might write off the chest pain as heartburn or some other minor event.
The reality is that if you ignore this warning sign, the blockage of the coronary arteries will continue until your heart can't get enough oxygen even when in its resting state. Then you will have a major heart attack from which you may not recover.
Other Symptoms of Angina
Besides the chest pain, you may have other symptoms, such as:
- tightness or pressure in your chest
- pain centered in the chest that radiates outward into your back, neck and left arm
- pain that ebbs and flows as you relax from physical activity, but begins again as your heart rate increases
Women may experience angina differently than men. Their symptoms may include:
- sharp chest pain instead of the dull pain felt by men
- difficulty taking a deep breath
- nausea and vomiting
- pain in the abdominal area
Causes of Chest Pain
There are several reasons for a blockage in the coronary arteries, such as:
- a high cholesterol level produces fatty deposits on the lining of the blood vessels, restricting the blood flow
- a blood clot can form inside of the blood vessel due to an accident, injury or surgery
There are other ways that the blood flow is restricted to your heart, such as:
- a heart valve that malfunctions because of damage by an infection
- a disruption of the electrical current in your heart that manages the steady beating
At the first sign of angina, a visit to a heart doctor, like Temecula Valley Cardiology, will determine the exact cause of the pain. They will start you on a heart failure management program to help reduce your chances of having a major heart attack. If you ignore the warning that angina is trying to give you, your next chest pain could be fatal.