Angina and Mental Health

What is angina?

Angina is a pain, discomfort, and/or pressure sensation felt in the chest area of the body. The cause of this pain is a decrease in the amount of blood carried to the chest muscles. Because of the low level of blood carried to the chest muscles, there is an imbalance between the oxygen level needed and the oxygen level received in this area. As a result, you can feel pain in your chest that occasionally feels like burning. This pain usually lasts for 30-60 seconds or a little more, and you can feel relief when your body is in a resting position.1

It is known that there are two types of angina, which can be classified as stable angina and unstable angina. The main distinction between them is that unstable angina has no trigger, whereas stable angina is brought on by unpleasant feelings and situations like stress and anxiety.2 In this case, people with stable angina should avoid stress as much as they can and start to implement some stress-reduction techniques if possible.

Furthermore, depending on one's gender and age, angina may have different causes and symptoms in different people. For instance, it has been found that people over 65 have a higher rate of arterial disease, which explains why people over 65 are more likely to experience angina.

Despite not being a heart attack, angina can occasionally be a sign of a risk of heart attack or stroke. In order to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, it is advised that people with angina take some precautions and alter their lifestyles.

Signs of angina

The most common symptoms of angina are listed below:

  • Chest pain (it might be described as burning, pressure, or discomfort)
  • Pain in the arms and/or shoulders (left and /or right)
  • Pain in the neck area
  • Pain and/or pressure in the lower jaw

Any pain, pressure, discomfort, or burning felt may be due to exercise and/or stress and often goes away on its own when you rest. 

In addition to these, the symptoms experienced by people assigned female at birth (AFAB) occasionally differ from common symptoms, and other symptoms may be observed by following common symptoms. Here is a list of the symptoms that people AFAB might experience:

  • Fatigue 
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Palpitations (fast-beating heart)
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

Living with angina

Patients who experience angina can protect their health and lower their risk of future heart attacks by making changes to their lifestyles. The following are some safety measures that patients can take:

  • Stop smoking
  • Lose weight 
  • Have a healthy and balanced diet (the Mediterranean diet is suggested) 
  • Cut down on alcohol
  • Exercise 
  • Try to avoid stress

How does angina affect mental health?

Living with a heart condition can be challenging for the patient's daily life. The stress that a person with angina experiences as a result of lifestyle adjustments, dietary choices, exercise routine, daily medications, and fear of experiencing the symptoms of the disease at any time affects not only the person's physical activities but also the person’s mental health.  According to studies, 65% of people with heart disease suffer from depression, anxiety, social isolation, and low self-esteem.3 In this case, angina patients may need support, assistance, and help from their family, friends, and relatives to adapt to the changes they have made in their lives.

Emotional distress can cause angina

When you are stressed, experiencing negative emotions, or confronted with a difficult situation, it is normal for your body to react differently than usual to the anxiety that you are experiencing. Angina can also be a symptom of disorders like anxiety and panic disorder. Moreover, negative emotions like stress and anxiety can trigger angina. In such cases, it is quite common to experience pain in the chest and arms, pressure in the jaw, and difficulty in breathing. Activities such as breathing exercises, nature walks, journaling, and meditation can help you reduce your stress and control the effects of angina and anxiety.

If you or someone close to you is struggling with mental health

We should take various precautions when we are mentally tired, unhappy, depleted, depressed, panicked, or anxious, just as we do when we feel physical pain in our bodies. It is common for individuals to experience negative emotions from time to time and to face mental health difficulties at different times in their life. Remember that you are not alone if you are struggling with your mental health. If a loved one is struggling with their mental health, let them know they are not alone. The first step in dealing with mental health struggles is to become aware, and the second step is to talk and seek help. If you are experiencing difficulties with your mental health, please contact your local GP or visit the NHS website for further information.

Conclusion

Angina is a pain, soreness, discomfort, or burning sensation in the chest that usually lasts 30-60 seconds. This pain can also be felt in the arms, neck, lower jaw, and shoulders from time to time. In addition, fatigue, a fast-beating heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, and weakness are also seen as symptoms in people AFAB. Patients aged 65 and over have a higher risk of developing angina. Angina is a disease that is known to occur with stress and anxiety not a heart attack, but it can be an indicator of a risk of a future heart attack. Some changes in the lifestyles of patients diagnosed with angina (such as quitting smoking, exercising, avoiding stress, eating healthy, and quitting alcohol) increase their quality of life and reduce the risk of future heart attacks. In addition, these changes made by the individual may cause the individual to experience mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. In this case, angina patients need to receive support and help from their relatives. If you or someone close to you is experiencing mental health problems, please contact your local GP or visit the NHS site for more information.

References

  1. Kloner RA, Chaitman B. Angina and Its Management. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2016 Dec 14;22(3):199–209.
  2. NHS. Overview - Angina [Internet]. NHS. 2018. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/angina/
  3. APA. Mind/body health: Heart disease [Internet]. Apa.org. 2011. Available from: https://www.apa.org/topics/chronic-illness/heart-disease

Sena Kaptan

Clinical Psychology and Mental Health MSc, Swansea University, Wales

Sena has just completed her MSc in Clinical Psychology in the United Kingdom. During her undergraduate years in psychology, she took part in various research projects and, in addition, gained a lot of writing experience. She continues to develop herself in many ways in writing and psychology.

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