All about angina

Variant angina nearly always happens while you are at rest. It doesn’t follow physical exertion or emotional stress. Attacks may be very painful and usually happen between midnight and 8 a.m.

Atypical angina is a vague chest discomfort, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, back or neck pain or burning indigestion, instead of the more usual pain. Women are more likely to experience this type of angina.

Angina is diagnosed through both a medical history and a series of tests to examine the cardiovascular system. This can include angiography (examination of the arteries using dye and x-rays), an electrocardiogram (ECG/ EKG; measurement of the electrical activity in the heart), an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart), stress test (monitoring of the heart during exercise), and other tests.

Lifestyle changes are key. Physical activity (with your doctor’s approval) is important, as is control of risk factors: high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. A healthy diet, no smoking, and limiting alcohol use and reducing stress also will help to play a role.

Medication is also used to treat angina. Many of us are familiar with nitroglycerin as a treatment during an attack, but other medications may be prescribed: anti-platelets, beta blockers, and calcium channel blockers.

Angina can also be treated surgically by widening or bypassing the narrowed artery to increase the blood flow to your heart.

Angina is not a death sentence, but it is a warning that it is time to take your heart’s health very seriously.

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