Cardiovascular chest pain, also known as angina, is a common issue amongst those suffering from heart disease. While general chest pain can be caused by a number of different issues, angina is often caused by blockages in the main arteries that pump blood to, and from the heart – these blockages are a result of coronary artery disease.
Due to these blockages, the blood flow to, and from, the heart is hampered a great deal, forcing the heart to work much harder to “do its job”. This chest pain feels similar to a squeezing, pressure or tightness in the chest. Patients will often feel as if a heavy weight has been placed above their chest.
Types of Angina
The different types of Angina are:
- Stable Angina: The most common form of cardiovascular chest pain, stable angina is brought on by both physical activity and stress. It will generally dissipate once you are able to relax for a short period of time. Frequent cases of this chest pain can be a sign of poor cardiovascular health and possible heart attack.
- Unstable Angina: This is a severe type of chest pain, that can occur even while at rest or during periods of low activity. These bouts of chest pain are often recurring and can be a sign of an impending heart attack so its important to contact your cardiologist immediately.
- Variant Angina: The rarest form of angina, can occur during the night or while deeply at rest. Also known as Prinzmetal’s angina, this issue is characterized by the sudden tightening of the arteries – often causing intense pain. Immediate treatment is important.
Chest pain or angina most often occurs as a result of having poor cardiovascular health and is a sign of heart disease. Patients suffering from the buildup of fatty plaque deposits along the walls of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis are highly likely to suffer from angina. These fatty deposits block the flow of blood to the heart, forcing it work harder with less oxygen – causing pain and discomfort in the chest. Other causes of this cardiovascular chest pain include:
- Blood Clots in the Arteries
- Pulmonary Embolism – Blockage in the major artery of the lungs.
- Aortic Stenosis – Narrowing of the main valve of the heart.
- Pericarditis – Swelling of the sac around the heart.
- Aortic Dissection – Tearing in the wall of the largest artery in the body, the aorta.
While chest pain is the main symptom as well as the condition, other possible symptoms include:
- Burning Feeling in the Chest
- Aching or Soreness
- Heaviness or Fullness in the Chest
- Tightness or Squeezing Feeling
Cardiovascular chest pain is an extremely broad issue, and treatment is highly dependent upon the reasoning for, as well as the extent of damage done to the heart. For those with more mild cases of angina, medication to help clear plaque buildup, and certain lifestyle changes may help. These changes include:
- Quit or Avoid Smoking
- Avoid Overconsumption of Alcohol
- Eat Healthier & Get More Exercise
- Limit Stress
- Regularly visit the doctor
Prescription medications can also help by:
- Widening blood vessel and clearing blockages – improving blood flow.
- Slow the heart rate.
- Relax blood vessels.
- Prevent blood clots.
In more severe cases, surgical measures might be necessary, again this is highly dependent upon the reason for your chest pain or angina.
Angioplasty/Stenting: Using a balloon to widen a narrowed artery to restore blood flow to and from the heart. In addition, implanting a small tube known as a stent within the artery can help to widen or open the blood vessels. A stent is a permanent solution, that can be made of both metal or a material that may be absorbed into the body over time.
Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: Using a healthy artery as a graft, it can help replace a faulty or none working artery.