Angina is the Latin word for ‘choking’ or ‘squeezing’ in the chest, which occurs as a result of the restricted flow of blood to the heart, due to the narrowing of the arteries which crown and surround the organ.
The US is home to over six million agina victims with hundreds of thousands more diagnosed each year. Women have a tendency to be more susceptible to the disease than men.
The cause of angina is due to the accumulated build up of plaque within the artery walls. Plaque forms as a result of cholesterol, calcium and fatty deposits which serve to harden and narrow the arteries ultimately restricting the flow of blood to the heart.
Other causes can be attributed to an unhealthy life style, smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet, obesity and the excessive consumption of alcohol. Medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes are also sited as significant contributing factors in the development of the disease.
The symptomsof angina are characterized by a sensation of pressure, heaviness, tightening, squeezing or aching across the chest just behind the sternum or breastbone. The pain can either radiate down the left arm down the arm and to the hand or it can in some cases affect the neck, jaw, arm, back and even the teeth.
Other common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, heartburn, weakness severe cramping and shortness of breath, all of which can occur after a heavy meal, walking, running, emotional upset or during sexual intercourse.
The disease can in first instance be treated by simply resting; however the prescription of nitro-glycerin which is a beta blocker and comes either in tablet form, which is placed under the tongue or as an oral spray. Nitro-glycerin is very effective in relaxing the cardiac muscle and reducing its need for oxygen. It reduces the spasms of the coronary artery, thereby allowing for the redirection of oxygenated blood to other parts of the body with a greater need.
The nitro-glycerin can be taken before hand, if excessive physical activity is anticipated in an effort to inhibit the onset of an attack. The dose can be repeated after five minutes, up to a total of three times. If however the pain fails to recede, then it is highly recommended that more proactive medical assistance be sought.
Angioplasty is a surgical procedure which helps to increase the opening of the arteries to allow a greater flow of blood to the heart. It involves the passing of a tiny balloon catheter via an artery in the groin or arm. This procedure is initially successful in 90% of all attempted operations, however in 30 to 40% of cases the symptoms recur at the site of the balloon inflation.
A Cardiac bypass is another surgical procedure which can be preformed to restore the blood flow to the arteries that supply blood to the heart. However, it must be remembered that surgery is not the cure all, but serves only to address the symptoms of the disease. Once the surgical procedure has been performed, the correct choices, with the assistance of the cardiologist must be made to reduce the chances of recurrence.
Scientific research are on-going with newer procedures and medication constantly evolving, with greater overall success with the reduced possibility of complications.