Angina Pectoris (Stable Angina)

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Last Medical Review: April 4, 2020
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Elisabeth Vincent Hamelin
Angina Pectoris (April 4, 2020)

What is Angina

Angina pectoris is a disease due to insufficient oxygen reaching the heart. Oxygen reaches the heart through the blood flowing in the coronary arteries: if these are blocked by fat deposits, less oxygen reaches the heart and a typical chest pain appears. The angina attack is triggered by activities that require a sudden increase in the oxygen requirement of the heart, for example for a very simple physical activity, such as climbing stairs or washing dishes. Pain disappears with rest. In other cases, the cause may be spontaneous narrowing of the coronary arteries and in this case the pain may also appear when you are at rest. Hypertension, an excessive amount of cholesterol in the blood, diabetes, obesity and smoking are all risk factors for the appearance of angina.

How it manifests itself

Pain in the center of the chest, under the breastbone, is the typical sign of angina. Pain can also be present in the shoulders, arms, throat, back and jaw.
Other ailments are wheezing, rapid and shallow breathing, dizziness, nausea and sweating.

What are the risks

Angina should be treated very carefully to prevent it from leading to a heart attack.

What should be done

  • Absolutely avoid activities that require physical efforts that can trigger the crisis. Taking drugs sublingually before making an inevitable effort (e.g. having to climb the stairs at home) if you have already experienced a crisis. Instead, any physical activity that is well tolerated, such as walking, should be maintained. It is not necessary to avoid sexual intercourse.
  • Emotional stresses, exposure to very cold or too hot temperatures, too abundant meals should be avoided. In winter you must avoid going out in the coldest hours and, in any case, you must dress in very warm clothes.
  • Stop smoking if you are a smoker. Reduce your body weight if you are overweight. Reduce the amount of fat and table salt present in the diet.
  • Regularly undergo a medical examination and take the prescribed medications scrupulously following the doctor’s advice. Do not suddenly stop taking the prescribed drugs: your heart could be in serious danger of a heart attack.

When to seek medical attention

  • Angina requires careful and continuous surveillance by the doctor and all people who suffer from it must be followed by a doctor.
  • If you have problems or doubts about the prescribed drugs.
  • You should immediately contact a doctor or the nearest hospital emergency department:
    • when the pain increases in intensity and does not disappear within 10-15 minutes despite the rest and the angina attack drugs (those to be taken by putting them under the tongue),
    • when you wake up from sleep with chest pain;
    • when you feel stunned and very fatigued, you breathe heavily even if you are at rest, or you become pale and covered in sweat.

In these cases you should not go to the hospital alone but you should immediately call an ambulance.

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