If you were to rely solely on Hollywood for information, angina (chest pain) signals a life-threatening heart attack. The truth is that chest pain can occur due to several cardiovascular issues that range from the very serious, such as the aforementioned heart attack, to less imminently dangerous, but still serious, problems like coronary artery disease.
Whatever the case, your angina is trying to tell you something very important about your heart health, and it’s one message you shouldn’t ignore.
To help you determine how serious your angina is, board-certified cardiologist Dr. Ariel Soffer and the team of heart health experts here at the Soffer Health Institute want to help you better understand this potentially problematic symptom.
Angina — a lack of oxygen
While you can experience chest pain due to many issues that aren’t heart-related, such as indigestion, angina refers to chest pain caused by a lack of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle. This simple fact, in and of itself, should get you to sit up and take notice.
In many cases, this lack of oxygen can be traced back to cardiovascular issues like coronary artery disease (CAD) or coronary microvascular disease (MVD), which occurs more often in women.
In either case, your heart muscle isn’t getting the oxygen it needs to function well, which can lead to angina. While angina refers to chest pain, it’s important to note that you can also feel the pain and discomfort in your jaw, neck, shoulder, back, or arm.
Different types of angina
Making matters slightly more complicated, there are several different types of angina and identifying which one you’re experiencing can provide us with valuable information that guides our next steps.
The four primary types of angina are:
1. Stable angina
This form of angina is typically associated with CAD and can present itself as chest pain, as well as an uncomfortable pressure and/or squeezing in your chest, usually during or after exercise or stress.It may go away ir you rest or take angina medication.
2. Unstable angina
This condition is medically very serious and occurs suddenly, often when you’re lying down. If your chest pain seemingly comes out of nowhere, and it’s severe, we urge you to get medical help right away.
3. Microvascular angina
Associated with MVD, this type of angina can last from 10-30 minutes or more, and you may experience other symptoms, such as shortness of breath and fatigue.
4. Variant angina
Also called Prinzmetal’s angina, the unique characteristic of this type of angina is that it almost always occurs between midnight and early morning. It’s caused by a spasm in the coronary arteries.
As you can see, paying close attention to the characteristics of your angina can help us narrow down the underlying culprit more easily.
Since angina is a symptom, our goal is to identify and address the root cause. In most cases, this means improving the flow of blood through your arteries so that blockages don’t deprive your heart muscle of the oxygen it needs.
Ultimately, any time you experience angina, we consider the problem to be serious, and you should contact one of our offices in Aventura, or Weston, Florida, as soon as possible.