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What is Angina?

Would the teenage boys in the back of the class stop giggling, please? Yes, “angina” sounds similar to “vagina.” However, the two words are completely unrelated. Angina is the most common symptom of coronary artery disease, and is more simply known as chest pain.

Angina occurs when the heart fails to receive an adequate amount of blood and oxygen. It usually lasts for only a short period of time, with the discomfort subsiding when the heart begins receiving what it needs. However, one should not make the mistake of thinking the problem is gone just because the pain subsides. Angina is caused by the build-up of plaque, a fatty substance, in the coronary arteries, which narrows the space through which blood can pass, restricting blood flow through the heart. This is also the ultimate cause of heart attacks, so one should not take angina lightly. If you’re experiencing chest pain, do not hesitate to speak to your doctor about ways to stop the underlying cause from growing into something much more severe.

The discomfort associated with angina is usually located in the center of the chest, behind the breastbone. It is often described producing such feelings as tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, squeezing or burning in the chest, nausea, numbness or tingling in the arms or wrists, and pain/discomfort that may spread to the shoulders, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. Angina is more likely to occur during moments of exertion, such as while climbing stairs, exercise, or even during sex. Other forms of physical distress can also trigger angina, such as anxiety, anger, extreme temperature, or even overeating.

Certain lifestyle changes can lessen your likelihood of experiencing angina. Smoking, and even exposure to second-hand smoke, takes a definite toll on cardiovascular health. Avoiding strenuous activities and undue stress can also help deter symptoms. Eat a diet low in fatty foods. Even if you have decided to make these types of changes in your life, please discuss any chest pain symptoms with your doctor to identify the cause and best course of treatment.