ANGINA – LIVING WITH

Angina is not a condition but is in fact a symptom of a disease, known more commonly as Coronary Heart Disease.

Angina is typically felt as a tightness, or heaviness in the chest, but can also be experienced as pain in the arm, throat, neck, jaw, back or stomach, sometimes described as unaccountable indigestion.

Angina is caused when the heart is not getting enough oxygen for itself.   This is caused by the  narrowing of the coronary arteries, which are the arteries which supply the heart muscle with oxygen.  This narrowing of the arteries is known as coronary artery disease and is very common for those with coronary heart disease.   As the heart itself cannot get a good supply of oxygen it is unable to work as efficiently and so sends out signals to the rest of the body to let us know that its struggling.

For those who suffer with angina these symptoms are often brought on by physical activity and sometimes stressful situations.   Some people with angina do not experience it very frequently and others experience it alot.

If you have angina you will have been given either a GTN spray or tablets.  If you do get chest pain, sometimes it isn’t easy to distinguish whether you are having a bad angina attack or having a heart attack.  For anyone who has not been diagnosed as having angina and who experiences chest pain, or some of the other symptoms described above, call 999 immediately as you could be having a heart attack.

Women who experience chest pain are particular bad at taking action, often putting it off, telling their partner that it will ease.

Some people think that having been diagnosed with angina there is then nothing you can do about it and you have to learn to live with it. This is not true. There are medications that can help reduce angina.   Changing to a healthier lifestyle will help reduce the risk of a heart attack.  Giving up smoking is the most important single thing that can be done and there are other lifestyle changes that will help these being : adopting a balanced diet, low in fat and salt and taking regular physical activity.

Taking regular physical activity is extremely beneficial, and as long as your Cardiologist or Doctor has not told you otherwise, is something that should be done everyday.  It has been found that exercising regularly encourages the body to grow new capillaries (blood vessels) into the working muscles.  If you have blockages in your arteries whether that be in your heart muscle or indeed your leg muscles, your body will grow, in time, new blood vessels around these blockages, these are known as collaterals.

To get the benefits that physical activity gives you, it needs to be done for around 30 minutes or more.   If whilst taking your exercise you are aware of any the symptoms of angina then stop and rest, use your GTN.  Next time you exercise work at a lighter level so you are symptom free this way you can exercise for longer and then gain the benefits that exercise gives.

See the article “EXERCISE INTENSITY” and download the free video “How to exercise safely” for more information on how to improve your physical activity levels safely. 

If you do have angina you will know that feeling stressed can bring on an attack.  It is therefore important to take time out and learn to relax.  Don’t bottle up your emotions but share them with someone you trust.

See article on DEALING WITH STRESS.

See article on BENEFITS OF EXERCISE

References:

BACR (British Association of Cardiac Rehbilitation

BHF (British Heart Foundation)

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