What is Angina?

Angina occurs as a result of the heart not getting enough blood, which manifests in symptoms such as chest pain, nausea, shortness of breath, sweating, and dizziness. Some patients with angina may also experience belching, as well as anxiety.

There are two different classifications of angina: Stable angina and unstable angina. Stable angina is often brought on by physical activity, such as exercise or climbing a flight of stairs, and even stress. Even something as simple as a bout of laughter can trigger an angina attack. With stable angina, symptoms tend to last for a few minutes but will ease once the patient rests and the heart rate begins to slow. With unstable angina, there are no specific triggers. Despite rest, symptoms can persist and may last as long as 30 minutes in duration. Unstable angina can also lead to a heart attack and is considered a medical emergency.

To diagnose angina, Dr. Ali Ghahary asks in-depth questions about a patient’s medical history, including whether or not there is a family history of angina or any other heart-related disease. Things such as high cholesterol as well as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption also put you at risk of developing angina – so you may need to make certain lifestyle and habit changes to reduce that risk. As anemia can also be a risk factor for angina, Dr. Ali Ghahary may send patients for blood tests. You may also be referred for an electrocardiogram, echocardiography, and an exercise tolerance test to further assess cardiac function and the electrical activity of your heart. These tests are painless and do not take long to perform. A more invasive test, known as a coronary angiography, is done by inserting a tiny catheter into a vein or artery. A dye is then injected into the catheter to provide better views of the coronary arteries and show any blockages. As this test is considered a surgical procedure, you may be required to stay in hospital for a day. As angina can mimic other medical conditions such as acid reflux, muscle pain, pleuritis and gallstones, it is important for physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary to be able to rule those out as well.

To reduce your risk of angina, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends avoiding any known triggers. Making lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight can also be beneficial to your health in many ways. For more tips on how angina can be prevented, visit the Heart and Stroke Fdn. Of Canada website at heartandstroke.ca.