Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States and dozens of other countries around the world. Our lifestyles, diets and genetics are all factors in how we’ve reached this global health crisis. One of the most telling symptoms of heart disease is called angina pectoris or simply chest pains. This happens when coronary arteries are obstructed and the body compensates in order to keep our blood pumping.
If you’re experiencing frequent chest pains, you may want to get yourself checked out. Early detection and management have been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes among people suffering from cardiac conditions.
Angina Pectoris in a Nutshell
Angina pectoris usually begins with a process called atherosclerosis. This is a silent, progressive state where the arteries that carry blood to and from the heart harden and narrow down. Over the years, circulation diminishes and the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart drops. To keep itself functional, the heart uses an alternative “fuel.” This fuel creates lactic acid as a byproduct and it’s this same acid that generates the pain in the chest area.
Of course. This is not the natural order of things inside the human body. Without emergency medical care, atherosclerosis will continue and one day trigger a heart attack or a stroke. Both of these situations can have expensive, debilitating or even deadly consequences.
Types of Angina
Angina can be classified into three types. These are according to frequency, what triggers it and what implications they have on your health.
- Stable angina – This is angina that occurs in predictable situations. It usually happens after strenuous physical activity, severe emotional distress and other situations that literally get the blood pumping. People who are afflicted by stable angina can be given medications that help manage their conditions.
- Prinzmetal’s angina – These are chest pains that happen while a person is at rest or is exposed to cold environments. This type of angina is less predictable and it’s often a more immediate concern for the people suffering from it.
- Unstable Angina – If the angina becomes more random, more frequent and more intense, it’s referred to as unstable angina. This is a possible indicator of an impending heart attack. If you are suffering from this type of angina, consult your doctor right away.
Myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack, happens when blood flow to one of the heart’s parts is obstructed for a long time. When blood supply is cut off, heart muscles are damaged and the organ stops functioning. Heart attacks are deadly and an immediate medical response is required to provide the best chances of survival. If a family member, a co-worker or a person near you looks to be suffering from a heart attack, apply these steps immediately:
- Call 911
- Sit the person down, keep calm and increase ventilation in the room. If the room is relatively warm, turn on the air conditioning.
- Loosen up any tight clothing that the person might be wearing.
- Inquire whether the person is taking any angina-related medication. If the person has medication, assist them in taking it.
- If the person is unconscious, apply CPR immediately.