Angina and Heart Attacks

Angina and Heart Attacks:

Men who experience Angina, felt as tightening, choking or dull pain in the central chest on exertion – should see their doctors early because this could be a warning sign of an impending heart attack

Medical Advice Heart Diseases, unfortunately, are among the commonest causes of death in men – often cutting down folk in the prime of life. Each year, heart attacks kill menfolk long before they reach even the bibliocally allotted span of three score years – and the sad fact is that many of these deaths are preventable. Heart attacks occur if blood flow to part of the heart muscle suddenly gets cut off – usually because a blood clot gets stuck inside one of the narrowed coronary arteries that carry blood to the heart.

Angina, aptly termed “a cry for help from the heart”, describes the initial cramping central chest pain originating from the heart when it doesn’t receive enough oxygen-carrying blood. Typically felt as a dull pain, a choking sensation or discomfort in the centre of the chest, angina is brought on by physical exertion, strong emotion, a heavy meal or cold weather. It usually subsides when the precipitating action or event ceases.

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The sensation feels different in different people – common descriptions are “chest tightness”, “a heavy weight pressing on my chest” and “a hollow feeling”. It can spread to the shoulder, upper arm, jaw or throat – and may be accompanied by sweating, nausea, shortness of breath or lightheadedness. Angina is actually a warning that the coronary arteries are narrowed, and if neglected, could well go on to a fatal heart attack.

Chest pain of this type almost always indicates that the coronary arteries are blocked. It is more likely to be experienced by smokers, diabetics, those who are overweight – or have high blood pressure or cholesterol. Anyone with these Risk Factors for heart disease who experiences angina, MUST get themselves checked by a doctor.

Even doctors may not be sure that this is Angina, so blood tests and ECGs will usually be needed. Sometimes, a special ECG taken while exercising (Exercise Stress ECG) or an echocardiogram taken before and after exercise (Exercise Stree Echocardiogram) will be required. If you do prove to have narrowed coronaries, you can help yourself –

  • By reducing weight if overweight -to reduce the workload on your heart)
  • By stopping smoking – otherwise your arteries will continue to get narrower
  • By regular physical exercise – because this will improve the blood flow to your heart
  • By taking steps to relax and cultivate a sense of equanimity – which have been proved to reduce episodes of angina.

Medications for Angina Doctors have many medications that can help. Glyceryl Trinatrate (GTN spray or Anginine tablets) helps relieve angina. Other tablets can dilate the coronary arteries and improve blood flow to the heart muscle, while medicines called Beta-Blockers can slow heart rate and reduce its demand for oxygen. A daily dose of aspirin reduces the “clottability” of blood and prevents clot formation in narrowed arteries. If the arteries to the heart are significantly blocked, some form of surgery – either Angioplasty (to widen narrowed vessels) or Bypass Grafting (to replace diseased vessels using normal arteries from the arm or chest wall) – can be undertaken. The important message is that if you have chest pain, don’t delay – get yourself checked by your doctor because it could well be angina. Taking heed of this warning could well prevent you suffering a heart attack – and becoming another statistic in the death toll from heart disease in this country


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