Sunday, September 6, 2009

Angina pectoris

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What is angina?
Angina is temporary pain or tightness that starts in the chest and sometimes radiates to other parts of the upper body. It comes on suddenly and usually does not last very long. It usually occurs when there are extra demands on the heart due to exercise, emotional stress, exposure to cold or wind, extra blood needed to digest a heavy meal, and so forth.

What causes angina?
Angina is caused by a shortage of oxygen and other nutrients reaching the heart muscle. This occurs most often when coronary arteries, which encircle and nourish the heart muscle, become narrowed or clogged with deposits of fatty plaque (atherosclerosis). When the heart must work harder but does not receive a normal increase in blood flow, angina results. Some people may experience angina even when they are not exerting efforts perhaps even they are sleeping. Scientist think this form of angina is caused by a spasm or constriction in the coronary arteries, usually at the site of atherosclerosis. This is referred to as resting or variant angina.

  • Chest pain behind the breastbone
  • pressure, tightness, or burning in the chest
  • pain radiating to the arms, neck, jaw, or back.
  • chest pain that occurs during exercise, after a heavy meal, on a cold windy day, or when stressed
How Is Agina diagnosed and treated?
Angina is diagnosed on the basis of symptoms, physical examination, and tests such as an exercise stress test or coronary angiography - a special study of the heart's circulation.

Many people can keep angina under control by making life-style changes that lower the heart's work load and reduce stress. Rest and the use of nitroglycerin usually will relieve an attack. The heart's demand for oxygen also can be modified with drugs such as beta blockers, which reduce blood pressure and slow down the heart rate, and thus reduce its demand for oxygen.

What can I do myself?
Decrease your risk of an angina attack by identifying and controlling the trigger factors that lead to chest pain, such as running up a flight of stairs or racing to catch a bus, an outburst of anger, or being outdoors on cold, windy days.

What can I do to avoid angina?
  • Stop smoking, since it makes the heart work harder
  • Lose excess weight and start an exercise program, but check with your doctor first
  • Lower blood cholesterol by eating less fats
  • Eat several light meals a day rather than fewer large ones, and rest after eating
  • don't go out to extremely cold days
  • reduce stress

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