IntroductionIn today’s society, people are gaining medical knowledge at quite a fast pace. Treatments, cures, and vaccines for various diseases and disorders are being developed constantly, and yet, coronary disease remains the number one killer in the world.
The media today concentrates intently on drug and alcohol abuse, homicides, AIDS, and so on. What a lot of people aren’t realizing is that coronary disease actually accounts for about 80% of sudden deaths. In fact, the number of deaths from heart disease approximately equals to the number of deaths from cancer, chronic lung disease, pneumonia and influenza, and others combined. One of the symptoms of coronary disease is angina pectoris.
Unfortunately, a lot of people do not take it seriously, and thus not realizing that it may lead to other complications, and even death.The Human HeartIn order to understand angina, one must know about our own heart. The human heart is a powerful muscle in the body which is worked the hardest. A double pump system, the heart consists of two pumps side by side, which pump blood to all parts of the body. It’s steady beating maintains the flow of blood through the body day and night, year after year, nonstop from birth until death.The heart is a hollow, muscular organ slightly bigger than a person’s clenched fist. It is located in the center of the chest, under the breastbone above the sternum, but it slightly slanted to the left giving people the impression that the heart is on the left side of the chest.
The heart is divided into two halves, which are further divided into four chambers: the left atrium and ventricle, and the right atrium and ventricle. Each chamber on one side is separated from the other, by a valve, and it the closure of these valves that produce the “lubb-dubb” sound so familiar to us.Like any other organs in our body, the heart needs a supply of blood and oxygen, and coronary arteries supply them.
There are two main coronary arteries, the left coronary artery, and the right coronary artery. They branch off the main artery of the body, the aorta. The right coronary artery circles the right side and goes to the back of the heart. The left coronary artery further divides into the left circumflex and the left anterior descending artery. These two left arteries feed the front and left side of the heart. The division of the left coronary artery is the reason why doctors usually refer to three main coronary arteries.Symptoms of Coronary Heart DiseaseThere are three main symptoms of coronary disease: heart attack, sudden death, and angina.
Heart attack occurs when a blood clot suddenly and completely blocks a diseased coronary artery, resulting in the death of the heart muscle cells supplied by that artery. Coronary and Coronary Thrombosis 2 are terms that can refer to a heart attack. Another term, Acute Myocardial Infarction 2, means death of heart muscle due to an inadequate blood supply.
Sudden death occurs due to cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest may be the first symptom of coronary artery disease and may occur without any symptoms or warning signs. Other causes of sudden death include drowning, suffocation, electrocution, drug overdose, trauma (such as automobile accidents), and stroke. Drowning, suffocation, and drug overdose usually cause respiratory arrest which in turn cause cardiac arrest. Trauma may cause sudden death by severe injury to the heart and brain, or by severe blood loss. Stroke causes damage to the brain which can cause respiratory arrest and/or cardiac arrest.
People with coronary heart disease, whether or not they have had a heart attack, experience intermittent chest pain, pressure, or discomforts. The name of this situation is known as angina pectoris. It occurs when the narrowing of the coronary arteries temporarily prevents an adequate supply of blood and oxygen to meet the demands of working heart muscles.
Angina PectorisAngina pectoris (from angina meaning strangling, and pectoris meaning breast) is commonly known as angina and means pain in the chest. The term “angina” was first used during a lecture in 1768 by Dr. William Heberden.
The word was not intended to indicate “pain” but rather “strangling,” with a secondary sensation of fear.Victims suffering from angina may experience pressure, discomfort, or a squeezing sensation in the center of the chest behind the breastbone. The pain may radiate to the arms, the neck, even the upper back, and the pain may come and go. It occurs when the heart is not receiving enough oxygen to meet an increased demand.Angina, as mentioned before, is only temporary, and it does not cause any permanent damage to the heart muscle. The underlying coronary disease, however, continues to progress until actions are taken to prevent it from becoming worse.Angina does not necessarily involve pain.
The feeling varies from individuals. In fact, some people described it as “chest pressure,” “chest distress,” “heaviness,” “burning feeling,” “constriction,” “tightness,” and many more. A person with angina may feel discomfort that fit one or the several of the following descriptions:Mild, vague discomfort in the chest, which may radiate to the left shoulder or armDull ache, pins and needles, heaviness or pain in the arms, usually more severe in the left armPain that feels like severe indigestionHeaviness, tightness, fullness, dull ache, intense pressure, a burning, vice-like, constriction, squeezing sensation in the chest, throat or upper abdomenExtreme tiredness, exhaustion of a feeling of collapseShortness of breath, choking sensationA sense of foreboding or impending death accompanying chest discomfortPains in the jaw, gums, teeth, throat, or ear lobePains in the back or between the shoulder bladesAngina can be so severe that a person may feel frightened, or so mild that it might be ignored. Angina attacks are usually short, from one or two minutes to a maximum of about four or five. It usually goes away with rest, within a couple of minutes, or ten minutes at the most.Different Forms of AnginaThere are several know forms of angina.
Breif pain on exertion and leave fairly quickly on rest is known as stable angina. When angina pain occurs during rest, it is called unstable angina. Symptoms are usually severe and the coronary arteries are badly narrowed. If a person suffers from unstable angina, there is a higher risk for that person to develop heart attacks. The pain may come up to 20 times a day, and it can wake a person up, especially after a disturbing dream. Another type of angina is called atypical or variant angina. In this type of angina, pain occurs only when a person is resting or asleep rather than from exertion.
It is thought to be the result of coronary artery spasm, a sort of cramp narrows the arteries.Causes of AnginaThe main cause of angina is the narrowing of the coronary arteries. In a normal person, the inner walls of the coronary arteries are smooth and elastic, allowing them to constrict and expand. This flexibility permits varying amounts of oxygenated blood, appropriate to the demand at the time, to flow through the coronary arteries. As a person grows older, fatty deposits will accumulate on the artery walls, especially if the linings of the arteries are damaged due to cigarette smoking or high blood pressure.As more and more fatty materials build up, they form plaques which causes the arteries to narrow and thus restricting the flow of blood.
This process is known as atherosclerosis. However, angina usually does not occur until about two-thirds of the artery’s diameter is blocked. Besides atherosclerosis, there are other heart conditions resulting in the starvation of oxygen to the heart, which also cause angina.
The arteries are supplied with nerves, which allow them to be controlled by the brain, especially the hypothalamus-an area at the center of the brain which regulates the emotions. The brain controls the expanding and narrowing of the arteries when necessary. The pressure of modern life: aggression, hostility, never-ending deadlines, remorseless, competition, unrest, insecurity and so on, can trigger this control mechanism.When you become emotional, the chemicals that are released, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and seratonin, can cause a further constriction of the coronary arteries. The pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain, under the control of the hypothalamus, can signal the adrenal glands to increase the production of stress hormones such as cortical and adrenaline even further.ConclusionAngina pectoris is not a disease which affect a person’s heart permanently , but to encounter angina pain means something is wrong.
The pain is the heart’s distress signal, a built-in warning device indicating that the heart has reached its maximum workload. Upon experiencing angina, precautions should be taken.A person’s lifestyle plays a major role in determining the chance of developing heart diseases. If people do no learn how to prevent it themselves, coronary artery diseased will remain the as the single biggest killer in the world, by far.
ReferenceAmsterdam, Erza A. and Ann M. Holms. Take Care of Your Heart, New York , Facts on File , 1999Houston, B. Kent and C.R.
Snyder. Type A Behavior Pattern, John Wiley and Sons Incorporated, 1996Tiger, Steven Heart Disease, New York, Julian Messner, 2003 Angina Pectoris:The Heart KillerBy Cherlaine Ordona