While being active (abnormal to your rest level) if a squeezing pain hits your chest and passes off upon resting, then its an Angina.
Actually, Angina literally means pain. To refer Angina relating to Heart Attack, it is called as Angina pectoris (simply put ‘pain in the chest’). Therefore, this pain in the chest, can be anything and not necessarily mean an impending Heart Attack.
If you experience any of the below then its related to your heart:
- tightness around your chest
- weight or pressure on your chest
- constriction on your chest
- an aching pain
- a squeezing feeling
- feeling like your chest is being crushed or/and
- your chest is sore.
Now that we know what Angina is, let us learn why and how it occurs.
Why and How Angina Occurs?
Angina occurs due to blockage of Coronary Arteries. Coronary Arteries are a network of blood vessels that feed the heart, glucose and oxygen (read energy).
When you are resting, Coronary Arteries supply enough amount of oxygen and glucose. However, when you get active (like running or doing an activity) your heart needs more glucose and oxygen. Coronary Arteries supply more oxygen and glucose to the heart by expanding themselves and thus allowing more volume of blood to flow.
At a younger age your Coronary Arteries work efficiently. The problem arises as you age.
As you start consuming fats it gets absorbed into blood. This blood while passing through Coronary Arteries starts depositing tiny bits of fat along the inner wall linings of Coronary Arteries.
Along the year, as you start to age, the deposits become thicker and thicker.
Fast forward to to an older age. Now, the deposits are so thick that the Coronary Arteries are narrower.
Note: The fatty deposits are called atheroma. They do not form throughout coronary arteries but at some places.
Lets say you are trying to move furniture around. This is definitely above your rest levels. Obviously your heart starts to beat faster than usual and requires more oxygen and glucose to function properly.
Coronary Arteries which are narrower due to fatty deposits are able to supply oxygen and glucose, sufficient for a resting heart. However, when a heart requires more energy the Coronary Arteries try expanding to allow more blood flow.
The Coronary Arteries do expand, unfortunately blood flow isn’t increased much to match needs of an active heart. The reason are fatty deposits making Coronary Arteries stiffer (being inflexible) blocking increased flow.
Your heart doesn’t get enough energy and it starts screaming, which is the pain called Angina.
What to Do if you Have Sudden Incident of Angina?
If you are prescribed medications for Angina pop it and rest immediately.
On the other hand, If you experience the pain for the first time, here’s what you should do:
- Stop doing any activity immediately
- Try laying down and getting into a position which is comfortable to you
- Relax for at least 30 minutes before you continue
- Talk to your doctor about it.
The 30 minute rest is vital. Angina is caused due to your heart not getting sufficient energy (because of any work you have done). The idea here is to get your heart to a relaxed state so that it won’t require more energy.
Fortunately, this situation can be reversed.
Reversing Angina through Diet and Lifestyle Changes:
We know atheroma (fatty deposits blocking blood flow in coronary arteries) are caused by excess cholesterol level in blood. Unfortunately, high cholesterol levels have no symptoms until its too late.
Cholesterol is needed by our body in certain limits. However modern eating habits have increased its limit.
Here are some important tips to reduce cholesterol in your diet:
- Eliminate junk foods
- Replace frying with grilling
- Cut down on dairy and meat. Increase consumption of poultry, fish and vegetables.
- Use vegetable oil instead of butter.
- Replace whole milk with skimmed or semi skimmed milk.
In short, try consuming way less cholesterol than you used to before.
Such low cholesterol diet will stop further building of fatty deposits and will probably remove the block within few years.
Medical treatments are easily possible with high success rates. Angioplasty is most common treatment in which a catheter is used to inflate the blocked area. And Bypass Surgery, wherein a vein is attached in such a way that it bypasses the blocked area thereby increasing blood flow to the heart.
A documentary titled ‘The Truth About Exercise‘ is worth mentioning here. Within the first ten minutes you will learn how to reduce cholesterol levels in your blood by 1/3. And all it takes is just ‘walking’.
So Michael (the subject) wants to know how he can lose weight, in the best way possible. He meets a doctor who makes Michael eat a fairly fatty meal. After 4 hours, Michael’s blood is drawn and fat is measured.
The doctor asks Michael to take a walk at night. Michael returns the next morning and has the same breakfast. His blood is sampled after 4 hours.
Amount of fat in former and latter blood sample is measured. Michael is shocked to find that after talking a walk, amount of fat within his blood is reduce to 1/3 in spite consuming same amounts of fat.
The reason is his body has learnt to process fat differently.
If you can lower amount of cholesterol within your blood to 1/3 by just walking and lower cholesterol consumption, you can cut the chances of atheroma by 50% and in fact a speedy recovery from Angina is easily possible.
Here is the entire footage of BBC documentary. It’s worth watching (at least first 10 minutes)
What do you think? What steps will you take to stop Angina or how will you prevent?