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Chest Pain

Angina Treatment and the Common Causes of Chest Pain

An entire team of cardiovascular specialists at University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute offer the expertise and advanced treatments necessary to help patients with chest pain, or angina, find relief and reduce their risk of a heart attack.

Our integrated team of heart specialists work together to ensure patients with chest pain are efficiently diagnosed and effectively treated to reduce heart damage at the earliest stages of a cardiac event. These specialists include:

  • Cardiologists
  • Interventional cardiologists
  • Cardiac and vascular surgeons
  • Cardiac nurses
  • Cardiac technicians

Understanding Conditions that Can Cause Chest Pain

Chest pain, or angina, occurs when your heart is not receiving the oxygen it needs to function properly. Angina symptoms include pain or pressure in the middle of the chest and may also lead to nausea, sweating or shortness of breath.

There are two types of angina: stable and unstable. Stable angina is the most common and forces the heart to work harder than normal. Although it is usually the result of physical exertion such as walking or climbing stairs, it can also occur when you are stressed or upset. Stable angina typically fades within a few minutes after resting or taking a prescribed medication.

Unstable angina occurs when plaque or a blood clot reduces blood flow to the heart. Unstable angina an occur suddenly with or without physical exertion and usually cannot be relieved with rest or medication. Unstable angina is a warning sign of a heart attack and requires immediate treatment.

The following conditions may lead to chest pain:

  • Atrial fibrillation: The most common type of an arrhythmia.
  • Coronary heart disease: A disease that occurs when a waxy substance known as plaque builds up causing narrowing of the arteries.
  • Heart failure: A chronic condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s blood and oxygen needs.
  • Heart valve disease: When one or more heart valves do not function properly, this condition occurs.
  • Hypertension: A condition that arises when blood flows through the blood vessels with greater force than normal.

Recognizing Chest Pain Risk Factors

Contrary to popular belief, both men and women may experience chest pain. While some risk factors of angina are uncontrollable, like age and family history of heart disease, others are within your control. Lifestyle choices play an important role in your risk of heart disease. Some risk factors can be improved, including:

Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, controlling cholesterol levels, eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat and sodium, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and keeping blood pressure and blood sugar at normal levels can all reduce your risk of heart disease.

Advanced Treatments to Ease and Prevent Chest Pain

Our cardiologists are committed to treating chest pain and preventing it from recurring. In addition to recommending lifestyle changes, medications such as nitroglycerin, beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers may be prescribed to help control this condition. These medications help reduce the workload of your heart, relaxing the blood vessels, lowering cholesterol and preventing the formation of blood clots.

In the event lifestyle changes and medication are ineffective in controlling your angina, a procedure may be necessary. Our interventional cardiologists or heart surgeons may suggest one of the following therapies:

  • Enhanced external counterpulsation therapy (EECP): The purpose of EECP is to increase blood flow to your heart. It works by applying blood pressure cuffs to your legs that inflate and deflate in rhythm with your heartbeat.
  • Coronary angioplasty: In this minimally invasive procedure, a small tube is threaded through a needle, into an artery and up to your heart. Then, a small balloon inside the tube is inflated to force the blood to flow again. To keep the artery open, a wire mesh tube or stent may be inserted.
  • Coronary artery bypass (CABG): Coronary bypass surgery involves taking arteries from another body part and using them to bypass narrowed or blocked arteries and reroute blood flow.

Have You Experienced Chest Pain?

If you have experienced chest pain, even mild occurrences, or have concerns about heart disease, talk to one of our heart specialists at University Hospitals. We have appointments available with our expert team at convenient locations near you.