Angina is manifested in the body in the form of chest pains that happen when parts of the heart do not receive their needed oxygen supply. Angina oftentimes feels like tightening and squeezing of the chest. Sometimes the arms, neck and back also ache and tighten. Angina is often considered to be a symptom of coronary artery disease, wherein the arteries’ passages narrow due to the accumulation of plaque in the walls of the arteries.
How is angina treated? One suggestion is to boost one’s immune system by increasing the doses taken of vitamins A, E and D. These are three basic nutrients that have been found to help prevent or control angina.
However, most doctors say that the very first thing to do in case of an angina attack is simply to sit down and relax. If one was doing something quite stressful just prior to the attack, then the implication is that the activity required you to increase your oxygen intake. Thus, returning to a relaxed position might just be the key to reducing the pain of such an attack.
If the attacks become more frequent, the doctor might require medication. Nitrate-based medicines are the most basic medical treatments for angina. Nitrate-based medications help widen and relax the blood vessels. Nitroglycerin, especially the type that dissolves under the tongue is used to quiet down a sudden angina attack. Other medicines such as the ‘blockers’, i.e. beta-blockers, calcium blockers, etc. may be prescribed for long-term use.
Other doctors will prescribe a lifestyle change as well. If one’s work or daily activity is such that the angina attacks become more frequent, then perhaps a change in lifestyle is best at this point in time.
One recent invention called vibrating trousers is now being used to treat angina—they are long cuffs that look like the cuffs on a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff). These leg cuffs actually deflate and inflate and push blood up the legs to the heart. It is said that the sequence of inflation and deflation helps encourage the growth of new blood vessels so that new pathways are created instead of relying on the old blocked arteries. This treatment is currently being performed in the UK today.
Another relatively new treatment is that of transferring growth genes into the heart so as to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels. So far this treatment is promising, especially for those who have severe angina attacks. Acupuncture is also used to treat angina nowadays.
If all else fails, or if the attacks do not subside, then an angioplasty may be recommended by your doctor. An angioplasty is a procedure wherein the blocked blood vessels are widened using balloons that are inflated with water to a certain pressure. A newer surgical technique to widen blocked or constricted arteries is via a stent, which is like a tube that is inserted in the blood vessel that then counteracts the effects of the blockage or the constriction. Usually, following successful stent surgery, patients are likewise asked to embark on a program of lifestyle changes.