Angina - Chest Pain  

What is angina?

Angina is a pain or discomfort in the chest, usually caused by coronary heart disease – the narrowing of the coronary artery reducing the blood supply to the heart. In some people the pain may affect only the arm, neck, stomach or jaw.

What does angina feel like?

Angina usually feels like a heaviness or tightness in your chest which may spread to your arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach. Symptoms usually subsides after a few minutes and while some patients report a severe tightness, others say it’s more like a dull ache. It’s often brought on by physical activity or an emotional upset, cold weather and after a meal. If your angina pattern changes in any way, you should speak to your doctor immediately.

Can I prevent it?

While you can’t reverse the underlying damage caused by coronary heart disease, you can prevent it from getting worse. Keep your heart healthy by:

  • Giving up smoking
  • Controlling high blood pressure
  • Reducing blood cholesterol
  • Controlling your weight
  • Controlling your blood glucose if you’re diabetic.

Diagnosis and treatment

Your doctor may be able to diagnose whether you have experienced an angina attack from the symptoms that you describe. Your doctor or nurse may want to carry out a cardiovascular risk assessment or carry out tests on your heart.

There is medication that can help to control the symptoms of your condition and prevent further problems. Some people will need treatments, such as angioplasty or heart bypass surgery.

Everyday life with angina

Many people with angina have a good quality of life and continue with their normal daily activities. Your doctor or nurse will be able to advise you on your daily activity and any lifestyle changes you need to make.

What to do if you get chest pain

If you have not been diagnosed with heart disease and have chest pain, call 999 now.

This information is for you if you have already been diagnosed with coronary heart disease and have a GTN (glyceryl trinitrate) spray or tablets.

Sometimes you may experience pain or discomfort. Often this will be angina that you can manage at home with your GTN, but it could be a heart attack. Here’s what to do if you feel:

  • A crushing pain, heaviness or tightness in your chest, or
  • A pain in your arm, throat, neck, jaw, back or stomach.
  • You might also become sweaty, feel light-headed, sick or short of breath at the same time.
Step one: stop what you are doing or sit down and rest.

Step two: take your GTN spray and tablets, according to your doctor or nurse’s instructions. The pain should ease within a few minutes – if it doesn’t, take a second dose.

Step three: if the pain does not ease within a few minutes after your second dose, call 999 immediately.

Step four: if you’re not allergic to aspirin and there’s one easily available, chew an adult tablet (300mg). If you don’t have an aspirin next to you or you’re not sure if you’re allergic to aspirin, rest until the ambulance arrives.
Even if your symptoms don’t match the ones above but you think you’re having a heart attack, call 999 immediately.

Source - British Heart Foundation

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