Angina (Angina Pectoris)

Angina, also known as angina pectoris, refers to pain originating from the heart. This sensation may be felt as chest pain or pressure in the chest. Most often, there is a feeling of tightness in the chest, which may spread to the neck, jaw, shoulders, and occasionally one or both arms possibly as far down as the hands. Some conditions even involve the upper abdomen. The sensation of suffocation and even impending death frequently accompanies an attack of angina.

The painful condition occurs when the heart muscle tissue does not receive enough oxygen, especially during periods of exercise or excitement. Coronary heart disease and coronary spasms are usually the cause of angina, for these conditions restrict the flow of blood to the heart and result in an oxygen deficit for the heart muscle tissue. An attack of angina pectoris is not a heart attack; however, it signals the presence of conditions that could lead to a heart attack.

Angina pectoris may be treated through a number of lifestyle changes. Weight loss helps to reduce the strain on the heart. Hypertension must be brought under control. Smoking must cease and a program of routine, moderate exercise initiated. All of these lifestyle changes have positive effects upon circulation to the heart; thereby, reducing the incidence or severity of angina episodes.

Often medications may be prescribed. Nitroglycerine may help to ease the pain during an angina attack. Beta-blocker medications also reduce chest pain by reducing the amount of oxygen the heart muscle requires and regulating the heart rate. Calcium channel blocker medications are also proving useful in controlling angina.