Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: What is Angina?


The focus of this week's Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday segment is on angina - what it is, how it presents itself, and how it can be treated.  We spoke with Dr. Ben Mathew, a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Associates of Charlottesville to find out more.

Mathew says angina is chest pain or discomfort when your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. 

“Angina pectoris is basically a clinical condition of chest pain or chest discomfort that occurs basically when the heart is not receiving enough blood from the arteries,” noted Dr. Mathew. 

The pain can happen to anyone.  While many may feel classic symptoms of pain or tightness in their chest, often women present differently.  They can feel short of breath, or short of breath with exertion more than normal. Regardless, any symptoms should not be ignored. 

“It can be a symptom of a heart attack or it can be a symptom of chronic stable heart disease where a patient has a fixed narrowing, say rusty pipes in the artery that is just progressively slowly getting worse,” noted Dr. Mathew. 

Treatment for angina varies, depending on whether the patient is stable or not.  In some cases doctors watch and wait. Other times, procedures are needed immediately. 

“If the patient is relatively unstable, the patient's gonna go to the catheterization lab where they will have an angiogram, which is a basically a picture of their heart where they take a look at the arteries that feed the heart,” said Dr. Mathew. 

If the artery is blocked, it can be treated with a stent.  In general, Dr. Mathew says it’s best to make lifestyle modifications to try to prevent any issues in the first place. 

“Exercising, at least five times a week for half an hour at a time is generally a good recommendation.  Also, eating well is important – avoid excessive amounts of dairy, excessive amounts of red meats fried foods, desserts, and a lot of simple sugars.”

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer, email healthquestions@nbc29.com

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

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