Angina, or angina pectoris, is chest pain due either to reduced blood flow to the heart brought on by exercise and relieved by rest. It can be thought of as cramp in the heart muscle. It is caused by the failure of oxygen supply to the heart to meet it’s demands. Hardening (atherosclerosis) of the coronary arteries that feed the heart is usually the underlying problem. Spasms of the coronary arteries may also cause angina.
There are three main types of angina. The first, stable angina, comes on during exercise and is both common and predictable. Stable angina is most often associated with atherosclerosis. A second type, variant angina, can occur at rest or during exercise. This type is primarily due to sudden coronary artery spasm, though atherosclerosis may also be a factor. The third, most severe type is called unstable angina. This angina occurs with no predictability and can quickly lead to a heart attack. Anyone with significant, new chest pain or a worsening of previously mild angina must seek medical help immediately.
It is important for treatment and prevention of angina (and for overall health) to learn more about atherosclerosis.
The common symptoms of angina include a squeezing pressure, heaviness, ache, or burning pain (like indigestion) in the chest that can last for 5 to 30 minutes at a time. These sensations are usually felt behind the breastbone but may also be felt in the jaw, neck, arms, back, or upper abdomen. Some people may also have difficulty in breathing or become pale and sweaty.
Symptoms of angina usually appear during physical exertion, after heavy meals, and with heightened emotional states, such as anger, frustration, shock, and excitement. The pain of angina should disappear with rest, or the use of nitrates placed under the tongue to reduce the work of the heart. If the pain persists then this may be a heart attack rather than angina and immediate medical aid should be sought.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|L-Carnitine||Improve fatty acid metabolism and oxygen utilisation, helps improve heart function and exercise tolerance.||2000mg daily|
|Co Q 10||Required for the metabolism of fatty acids and energy by the heart muscle. (Beta blockers and statins impede the action of CoQ10).||150mg daily|
|Vitamin E||Low levels of anti-oxidant vitamins in the blood, particularly vitamin E, are associated with greater rates of angina.||as directed|
|Arginine||To help the body make nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels.||2-3gm 3 times daily.|
|N Acetyl Cysteine||Enhances the action of nitroglycerine therapy.||600mg 3 times daily.|
|Magnesium||To relieve spasm in the coronary arteries.||365mg twice daily.|
|Bromelain||To prevent excessive stickiness of blood platelets and break down arterial plaque, which is thought to be a trigger for angina.||400-1000mg daily.|
|Fish Oils||For general circulation and heart health.||1000mg daily|
|Hawthorn||Help protect blood vessels from damage by strengthening the heart muscle, improve circulation and lower blood pressure.||60mg 3 times daily.|
|Garlic||Anti-oxidant, lower cholesterol, homocystein and blood pressure, improve circulation.||as directed.|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
Avoid coffee, drinking five or more cups of coffee per day has been shown to increase the risk of angina.
Cigarette smoking causes damage to the coronary arteries and can contribute to angina. Smoking and passive smoking has also been shown to reduce the effectiveness of treatments for angina.
Cut down on saturated fats in all meat products, poultry skin, full fat dairy products. Avoid hydrogenated and trans fats and all fried foods.
Do not add salt to food as it is a major factor in heart disease. Use herbs and spices to add flavour.
Beware of salt hidden in manufactured foods, as much as 75% of salt intake comes from salt added to processed food. Read labels. Even cornflakes contain more salt than seawater! If you see sodium on a label multiply the sodium content by 2.5 to get the true salt content. Daily salt consumption should not exceed 4 gram.
Increase your intake of foods rich in potassium to keep blood pressure in balance. Best sources are dried fruits, soya flour, nuts, salads, vegetables, fresh fruits (particularly bananas), fruit juice, muesli, wholemeal bread, eggs and low fat cheese.
Eat oily fish 3 to 4 times a week .
Increasing physical exercise has been clearly demonstrated to reduce symptoms of angina, as well as to relieve its underlying causes. One study found that intense exercise for ten minutes daily was as effective as beta-blocker drugs in a group of patients with angina. It is recommended that anyone with angina or any other heart condition, as well as anyone over the age of 40, should consult a doctor before beginning an exercise programme.
People suffering from angina may find acupuncture helpful to reduce symptoms, the need for medication, and even the need for invasive surgery. An uncontrolled trial of 49 angina patients found that acupuncture resulted in 58% less nitroglycerine use and a 38% decrease in the number of angina attacks. In another study, 69 patients suffering with severe angina were treated with a combination of acupuncture, shiatsu (acupressure), and lifestyle changes. The results were compared to patients with severe angina treated with coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). The incidence of heart attack and death was 21% among those treated with CABG and 7% among those treated with the combined therapy including acupuncture.
In addition, 61% of those treated with the combination therapy, because of their improved health, postponed any further invasive treatment.
Where angina is brought on by stress or anxiety, relaxation techniques such as meditation or guided relaxations can help.
Homoeopathic Remedies which may help. (Refer to the individual remedy for guidance on the one that is most appropriate for you.)
Suggested further reading:
- Angina explained