When your heart doesn’t get enough blood, you can feel a squeezing pain in your chest. Doctors call this condition angina, and it can be your wake up call for more serious problems with your heart.
Angina most often occurs as an early stage of coronary artery disease. Years of unhealthy eating, smoking, and drinking habits contribute to blockages in key blood vessels throughout the body. The same constriction of blood vessels that can cause a temporary high in a smoker’s brain can force the heart to work overtime. Like an engine constantly running on overdrive, the heart can seize up without stopping completely.
An angina sufferer experiences a range of symptoms resulting from this sudden drop in blood flow throughout the body.
Signs and Symptoms
Many angina sufferers describe an attack as consisting of everything from pulling or squeezing of the heart muscle to extreme, tight pressure centered on their chests. In the most alarming cases, pain can shoot from the chest all the way into the sufferer’s arms and jaw. Sometimes, this pain can manifest itself as numbness or as a lack of sensation in a patient’s extremities. The “pins and needles” feeling most people associate with muscle spasms can indicate serious problems with blood circulation.
Most angina sufferers first experience sensations of pain during stressful situations or strenuous activities. More often than not, patients report experiencing angina during and shortly after arguments with co-workers or spouses. Unfortunately, many angina sufferers write off their pain as a symptom of stress or even indigestion. Therefore, many patients do not seek medical attention for their condition until after their heart muscles have sustained permanent injury.
In rare circumstances, a few angina sufferers may actually experience discomfort while at rest. This form of angina often indicates a struggle with advanced heart disease. It can often be mistaken for a full-fledged heart attack, especially since patients have no warning, such as a build up of pain. A handful of extremely rare angina conditions involve defects in the artery walls that do not correlate to heart disease, yet carry the same consequences.
Treatments for Angina
After diagnosing angina, many doctors prescribe medication in spray or lozenge form that opens up a sufferer’s blood vessels. When first adapting to this treatment, many patients experience painful headaches as their bodies adjust to the changes in blood flow. Fortunately, these headaches replace the actual angina pain as proof of the treatment’s efficacy. Over time the medication can reduce the number and frequency of angina attacks. Many doctors also prescribe drugs that can regulate and even reduce the cholesterol in a patient’s bloodstream. Working together, these medications can help reduce the plaque that lines a sufferer’s artery walls.
In the most dangerous cases, especially when the angina indicates a very high risk for heart disease, doctors may choose to perform an angioplasty to widen the affected arteries. During this open-heart procedure, surgeons insert a small tube known as a stent into the artery. It works like a tunnel, allowing blood cells to pass through the congestion without the risks or the extended recovery period of a full bypass operation.
Many angina sufferers can alleviate their own symptoms by adjusting their diet and exercise regimens. Since cholesterol plays a major role in heart disease, patients can lower their intake of “bad cholesterol” by avoiding red meats and fatty cheeses. They can elevate the levels of “good cholesterol” in their system by enjoying quality fats found in ingredients like avocadoes, salmon, and olive oil.
Aside from diet, angina sufferers can explore holistic exercise activities like yoga and martial arts. By combining intense cardiovascular workouts with stress reduction techniques, participants can reduce the likelihood of experiencing further angina attacks. Usefuls herbs include: Hawthorn, Limeflower, Garlic, Yarrow, Passionflower, Skull cap and Chamomile.
For chronic angina sufferers, many homeopathic and herbal remedies can serve the same purposes as prescription medications. Chinese herbs like Salnia can reduce hypertension and restore balance to the bloodstream. Herbalists also recommend Carnitine and Arginine to improve the oxygen levels in the blood, while lowering cholesterol. Enjoying these herbs during a relaxing tea ceremony not only provides the body with cleansing substances; it provides an angina sufferer with another opportunity to build a relaxing activity into his or her routine.
To prevent angina, you can take the same broad measures that also prevent heart disease, especially:
· Stop smoking.
· Reduce fat and cholesterol intake.
· Maintain an optimal body mass index (BMI).
· Work out at least three times each week.
· Include significant amounts of fibre in your diet, particularly oat fibre.
Keeping angina and disease out of your life requires an overall commitment to leading a healthier lifestyle. This commitment can start with simple changes, like including more herbs, vitamins, and fibre in your everyday diet. It can expand with exercise and relaxation rituals that pull the mind and body into a focused state. And it culminates in major nutritional changes that help your body work at top efficiency.
Treat angina like your body’s “check engine” light. Instead of dismissing it, reduce the stress in your life. Expand your exercise routine and review the elements you have been putting into your body.