What is angina?
Your heart is a muscle that needs oxygen to function. Oxygen is delivered to the heart muscle by the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are usually able to deliver enough oxygen during exercise but if there is narrowing in these arteries by plaques it is difficult to deliver the oxygen. Part of the muscle that receives blood from this diseased vessel will then not get enough oxygen and you will experience what is called angina.
What does angina feel like?
The symptoms of angina vary significantly between individuals. It can range from tightness in your chest severe pain. The location of the pain can vary from your abdomen to your jaw and in both arms. You can also experience chest or back pain. You may also experience shortness of breath with angina. Angina usually comes on when you are performing activity like walking but it may come on at rest.
Why do my arteries narrow?
The build up of plaque occurs in the lining of the artery. This build up depends on a number of factors; genetic make up, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, reduced activity levels and diabetes.
What happens if my doctor suspects angina?
If your doctor suspects angina he/ she may refer you on for an exercise stress test. This is a graded exercise test where you walk on a treadmill and every three minutes the speed and incline is increased. During the test your heart rate and rhythm will be monitored using ECGs (electrocardiographs). If there are changes detected on the ECG you may be referred for an angiogram where dye is injected into your coronary arteries and images taken to see where the blockages are. If significant blockages are found the cardiologist may insert a stent to keep the artery open. If the blockage is quite long or is in the area of the artery that may be difficult to stent you may be referred for a coronary artery bypass graft.
What can I do to reduce my risk of angina?
Start exercising, stop smoking, reduce your fats in your diet, keep your resting blood pressure less than 140/90 and make sure your diabetes is well controlled.
Karen Cradock, B.Physio, MSc, Heart 2 Heart Cardiac Physiotherapy, www.h2hcardiacphysio.com, Specialised cardiac exercise classes at Kilcullen Business Campus, Mount Merrion Community Centre, UCD Sport and Killashee Leisure Centre, firstname.lastname@example.org .