• Angina/Chest Pain

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    How do you pronounce it?

    You may hear it pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, and a long i: an-GI-na. Or you may hear it pronounced with the accent on the first syllable and a short i: AN-gi-na. Which is correct? Both. Equal numbers of people, and doctors use each pronunciation, and many use both.

    Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. And yet for so many, a heart attack seems like a bolt out of the blue. It isn’t. Heart disease develops over time and can affect you in many ways. A heart attack is just one way. Angina is another.

    Angina, or angina pectoris - its full name - is a medical term for the symptoms caused by the heart not getting enough oxygen from the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply the heart with blood). When the coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked over time - it’s called coronary artery disease, or CAD - and it can cause angina. Most commonly, people describe their symptoms of angina as chest discomfort or pain.
    Coronary artery disease makes it difficult for the heart to get the oxygen it needs, which can slow you down and cause angina. Watch this animation to see what actually happens in your body when you experience angina. (Animation provided courtesy of Speak from the Heart www.SpeakFromTheHeart.com, a trademark of Gilead Sciences, Inc.)

    Angina is stable or unstable.

    • Stable angina produces symptoms at a reliable level of exertion for the individual. For example, every time you walk more than five blocks or climb two flights of stairs, your chest hurts. It usually goes away when you stop to rest or take nitroglycerin (see our discussion of Angina Treatment). The amount of exertion it takes to bring on your angina will be different from one person to the next.
    • Unstable angina is more commonly associated with a heart attack. It is a change in your pattern of angina, or when you have your first episode of angina. It usually comes on suddenly with more severe pain or discomfort. It may come on even when you’re resting.

    Could It Be a Heart Attack?

    If you are having trouble breathing or are experiencing chest pain that lasts more than 5 minutes when you are sitting still or lying down, or if the symptoms go away and come back again, it could be unstable angina or a heart attack. Call 911 for immediate medical assistance.

    Delay in getting the proper care could permanently damage your heart and put your life at risk. See the SecondsCount Heart Attack Survival Guide to learn more about heart attack symptoms and what you should do if you think you or someone you know could be having a heart attack.

    Living with Stable Angina

    Although it is not a medical emergency like a heart attack, stable angina canbe very painful, too. It can make you feel anxious and interfere with your quality of life. Chest discomfort occurring with exertion can limit how active you are. Being inactive is not good for your health. Inactivity raises your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and subsequently heart disease. Your doctor can help you determine the cause of your angina and work with you to find a treatment to relieve your symptoms.

    Open and honest communication with your doctor and other healthcare professionals is an essential part of getting the best treatment. Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Angina is a downloadable tool that will help you get started. You should also consider Tracking Your Angina, a worksheet you can use to record and describe your angina as it happens, so your doctor will have the most accurate information possible during your next visit.

    Learn More about Angina

    If you’d like to learn more about angina, follow the links below:

    • Symptoms. Angina is one or more symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, that signal a problem with your heart. SecondsCount has information and tools that can help you record and describe your angina symptoms to your doctor and other members of your healthcare team to find the best treatment for you. Learn more...
    • Causes and Risk Factors. Angina is most often caused by coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis. Over time, atherosclerosis can cause arteries to become narrow or blocked, making it difficult for oxygen-rich blood to get to the heart. A treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes, medication, and in some cases interventional procedures can slow the disease and reduce pain and discomfort as well as your risk for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). Learn more…
    • Diagnosis. Your doctor may consider many factors and test results before diagnosing angina:  medical history; physical exam; and tests, such as electrocardiograms (EKGs), echocardiograms, stress tests, blood tests, CT coronary angiograms, and conventional coronary angiograms. You can help by providing as much information as possible and asking questions. SecondsCount provides tools such as the Tracking Your Angina and Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Angina to help you know what’s most important to share with your doctor. Learn more…
    • Treatment. The build-up of plaque in the arteries happens over time and continues throughout our lives. So far, there is no cure to dissolve these blockages. But we can slow the process by making changes in our habits, taking medication, and in some cases, using angioplasty and stents to open blockages that have narrowed arteries and caused angina. Communicate openly with your doctor to develop the best possible treatment plan for you to reduce your pain and discomfort, and to remain as active as possible. 
    Click to watch Debbie's story

    Debbie did not give in to her angina. She got the help she needed to do what she loves most. (Video provided courtesy of Speak from the Heart www.SpeakFromTheHeart.com, a trademark of Gilead Sciences, Inc.)
    Click here to watch Debbie's story…

    • Lifestyle Changes. Healthy habits such as eating right, not smoking, maintaining ideal body weight and exercising can make a big difference in managing the pain and discomfort of angina. SecondsCount offers information and tools to analyze your eating habits and quit smoking for good to support you in making these difficult but beneficial changes. Learn more…
    • Resources and Support. Living with angina can be very difficult, but giving up will not help. It’s difficult for anyone to help if they don’t know what’s wrong. If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn, tell your doctor or other medical professional. You can also talk to friends and family for other suggestions. For more information and support, SecondsCount provides a list of other online resources. Learn more...

    If It’s Not Angina, What Is It?

    Other health problems and diseases have similar symptoms but are not angina. For example, anything from a pulled muscle to pneumonia can cause chest pain. But if you are not sure, check with your doctor.

    Click here for more information and a list of other problems that can feel like angina.

  • More About Angina/Chest Pain

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    Angina Causes and Risk Factors

    Your heart is a muscle that works hard to pump blood throughout your body. To do that critical work, it needs oxygen. Oxygen is carried by the blood from the lungs and through the coronary arteries to the heart.

    Angina Treatment

    Angina is your body’s way of telling you that you have coronary artery disease (CAD). Plaque has built up in the arteries to the point where blood flow is restricted and your heart is not getting enough oxygen to do its work. Treating angina means treating this underlying problem. In other words, increasing the blood flow to your heart will ease your symptoms.

    Angina/Chest Pain

    Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. And yet for so many, a heart attack seems like a bolt out of the blue. It isn’t. Heart disease develops over time and can affect you in many ways. A heart attack is just one way. Angina is another.

    Diagnosing Angina

    Angina is usually caused by coronary artery disease (CAD), so diagnosing angina really means diagnosing CAD—the underlying condition.

    Is Angina Ruining Your Life?

    Life was certainly easier before you had angina. But as scary and overwhelming as it is, it does not have to ruin your life. Medications, lifestyle changes, and in some cases medical procedures such as angioplasty and stenting, coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG), or enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) are all treatment options that could help you live your life to the fullest. Take a few minutes to answer the questions below to see if you should talk with your doctor about doing more to treat your angina.

    Living with Stable Angina: Prepare Your Action Plan

    Angina can be painful and frightening but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. If you take action and work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that’s right for you, you can find relief from your symptoms. Learn what to do when angina strikes and how to work with your doctor on a long-term treatment plan.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Angina

    Use the following questions as a tool to help you talk to your physician about your angina. Print them out and take them with you to your next appointment. Take notes to help you remember your discussion when you get home.

    Resources and Support If You Have Angina

    If you are looking for additional information and support, consider reading and hearing what others have to say about their experiences with angina.

    Symptoms of Angina

    According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, as many as 7 million people in the United States have angina. So, if you have angina, you’re not alone—but how it feels can vary a lot from one person to the next.

    Tracking Your Angina Worksheet

    You know how angina feels to you, but can you describe it to someone else? Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right words to tell someone how you’re feeling. But the more you can share with your doctor about how often you have angina, how it feels, and how it is affecting your life, the more he or she can help.

    Treating Angina with COURAGE and FAME-2: Meds, Stents, or Both?

    Clinical trials and other studies provide important data for you and your doctor to consider when you work together to develop a treatment plan for your angina. Doctors and other healthcare professionals use evidence from these studies to develop guidelines for the most effective treatment for patients whose diagnosis, medical history, age, race, and other characteristics and circumstances are similar to those of patients in the study.

    What’s Causing Your Chest Pain?

    Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of angina. You can learn more about Angina Causes and Risk Factors on this website, but chest pain can also signal other problems. This is why it is very important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor to determine the underlying problem and the best course of treatment.