Angina is a medical condition caused by improper supply of blood to the heart due to narrowed coronary arteries. The condition often causes crushing pain in your chest while resting. Some people may experience pain in arms, neck, and shoulders. Due to this condition, there is reduced blood flow to your heart muscle, which leaves it deprived of oxygen. Also referred to as acute coronary syndrome, unstable angina is a serious condition and should be treated as an emergency.
The buildup of plaque on coronary arteries causes them to narrow down. The constriction of arteries makes them rigid and may result in injury to coronary blood vessels. This risks causing clotting of blood. Blood clots can partially or fully block blood flow to the heart muscle. When the arteries are not able to supply blood and oxygen to the heart, it results in discomfort and pain. The condition is known as unstable angina.
Symptoms of Unstable Angina
You may experience pain or discomfort in your chest, arm, shoulder while sleeping, resting, or with little physical exertion. The pain may starts slowly and usually without a cause. It may get worse over time and last longer than stable angina. The condition may aggravate into a heart attack.
- Nausea, sweating, anxiety, dizziness
- Sharp chest pain that often radiates to extremities
- Pain in the back
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained fatigue
- Family history of heart disease
- High bad cholesterol
- Low good cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Tobacco use
- Sedentary lifestyle
Particular age groups of men and women are at a higher risk of experiencing unstable angina compared to others. Men above 45 years of age and women 55 years old are at a greater risk of unstable angina.
Treatment for Unstable Angina
Unstable angina should be taken as a warning sign of a heart attack. The narrowing arteries can cause irregular heart rhythm, heart failure or attack, and other life threatening conditions.
The doctor will require you to undergo a few tests to diagnose the condition, including:
- Blood pressure monitoring
- ECG to see irregular patterns in your heartbeats, which are an indication of reduced blood circulation
- Blood tests to determine leakage of enzymes from a damaged heart muscle
- Coronary angiography is done to determine narrowing of arteries and blockages using X-ray imaging
- Echocardiography is done to diagnose angina-related problems using sound waves that produce heart images
- Stress tests are done to check if the heart has to overwork, making detection of angina easier
Blood thinners are usually given to the patient to allow blood to flow more freely through the arteries. The doctor may also prescribe other medications for blood pressure, anxiety, or cholesterol to alleviate symptoms of unstable angina. Alternative therapies are often the best way to get your heart to working normally. These include exercising regularly, taking steps to lose weight, and adopting a healthier lifestyle to reduce the risk of unstable angina episodes.