Causes and Symptoms of Angina

Angina is the acute chest pain and discomfort that a person feels when the heart does not get enough blood. Narrowing or blockage of coronary arteries that carry oxygenated blood to the heart leads to heart muscles not getting enough oxygen which in turn results in acute chest pain, this is known as angina. Angina pain actually serves as a kind of warning against heart attack. Blockage of arteries when complete cuts off oxygen supply to the heart causing heart attack, so angina is the first sign of heart disease. In fact statistics show that one out of every 10 patients suffering form angina go on to suffer heart attack within one year.

Causes of Angina

The main cause of angina pain is of course due to the gradual hardening or narrowing of the arteries carrying oxygen rich blood to the heart. This process of hardening of the coronary arteries is known as atherosclerosis. Hardening of arteries is actually due to deposit of fatty materials or plaque with age. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon due to age; however certain conditions can quicken or exacerbate the process.  High blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, tobacco smoking as well as high cholesterol – all can contribute towards narrowing of coronary arteries.

There may be other reasons for the heart not receiving enough oxygen, the primary among which is heart valve disease. If the heart rhythms are irregular such that the heart beats too fast then too it cannot pump blood efficiently. Inherited structural abnormalities of arteries and severe anemia too can be causes behind lack of sufficient oxygen to heart.

Conditions like fever, stress, infection or illness, sudden exertion or overwork and overactive thyroid gland can exacerbate angina.

Symptoms of angina

Angina pain usually begins in form of discomfort or mild ache at the centre of the chest which then gradually gains in severity. The expression of pain varies from person to person. Some say that they are feeling of tightness, crushing, heaviness or even pressure or a burning sensation in the chest. Some even experience a kind of choking sensation. Next the pain gradually may radiate to the neck and shoulders, jaw to the left arm. Angina pain lasts only for fe minutes and responds well to GTN tablet or spray on the tongue. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea and anxiety.

Who is affected by angina?

Angina is a common problem faced by people all over the world as with age our cornary arteries narrow down or become blocked. It has been found that 8% of male and 3% of female population within the age group of 55 to 64 are at risk of suffering form angina.

The most important point to remember about angina is that it is an sign of heart disease, so basically anyone who is at risk of developing  coronary heart disease and micro vascular disease are also at risk of suffering from angina attack.

People suffering from following conditions are at risk of angina, coronary heart diease and micro vascular disease:

  • • High cholesterol

  • • High blood pressure

  • • Diabetes particularly those having insulin resistance

  • • Cigarette smokers

  • • Those with an unhealthy diet

  • • Those with family history of heart disease

  • • People above the age of 55

  • • Obese people


Treatment for Angina

Doctors always prefer to give counseling on changing lifestyle habit like regular exercising, quit smoking, having a healthy diet etc. During angina attack GTN or glyceryl trinitrate tablets or in spray form on the tongue is an effective treatment. Drugs like aspirin and statin can help to minimise risk of heart attack. In case of sever blockage of arteries invasive procedures like coronary artery bypass grafting, or percutaneous transluminal angioplasty to open the arteries may have to be taken.