Headaches? Your Doctor Can Help You More Than You Think

Angina: Your First Sign Of A Heart Problem

Most people know that a heart attack is a sign of a serious heart problem. But many people will experience angina, the first painful warning that your heart puts out. Angina is a pain in the chest that goes away, so it can easily be ignored. Here is what you need to know about angina and why you should see a doctor at the first sign of this type of chest pain.

Angina is a Warning Sign of Worse Problems Ahead

Your heart muscle needs blood and oxygen to function properly. When the blood flow to the heart tissue is compromised, the muscle begins to fail. When the heart becomes starved for oxygen, chest pain occurs indicating that the heart has a problem.

When the heart needs to work harder, such as when exercising or doing physical work, it needs more oxygen. If the blood flow is restricted so the heart can't get enough oxygen to meet the increased demand, chest pain occurs. If you relax and let your heart rate settle back down, the demand for extra oxygen goes away, as does the chest pain. Heart doctors call this pain angina.

Should you ignore this warning sign and the blood vessels feeding your heart become completely blocked, you'll have chest pain that doesn't go away. This is considered a heart attack, from which you may not recover if life-saving measures aren't taken immediately.

Typical Symptoms of Angina

People who experience this kind of chest pain typically have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • a feeling of tightness and pressure in the chest
  • pain that originates in the chest but extends out into the neck, back and left arm
  • pain that goes away if you relax but begins again when you physically exert yourself

There is a difference between the way men and women experience angina. Women may have the following symptoms along with the chest pain:

  • sharp instead of dull chest pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abdominal pain

Common Causes of Heart Disease and Angina

There are several reasons why your heart may not get enough oxygen to function properly. Some of the causes of heart disease include:

  • high cholesterol levels in the blood which cause fatty deposits to build up on the blood vessel walls
  • a blood clot lodged in the blood vessel due to an accident or injury
  • a malfunctioning heart valve due to an infection
  • a disruption of the electrical signal that controls the steady beating of your heart

Your heart doctor will determine the most likely cause of your chest pain and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Angina is your first warning sign that you have a heart disease. Talk to heart doctors if you have any type of chest pain. Since angina goes away, it can be easy to ignore it as just a fluke. Ignoring the pain could set you up for an even worse heart attack later.