What is angina?
Have you ever had a dull, tight, or squeezing pain in your chest that moved to your left arm or neck? Or, have you ever heard of or met someone who experienced such? If yes, you might have directly or indirectly experienced angina.
Angina occurs as a result of reduced flow of blood to the heart muscles and consequent reduction in oxygen supply to the heart muscles which leads to chest pain.1 Angina itself does not usually pose a threat to life, but it is a symptom of a more serious heart condition such as coronary artery disease.2
Coronary Artery Disease occurs when fat deposits build up in the wall of the arteries that carry blood to the heart( coronary arteries) and narrow them over time, reducing their capacity to carry blood and deliver oxygen to the heart muscles.3
Different factors such as; being overweight, eating a diet with high and unhealthy fat, lack of sufficient physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking tobacco, and having people with coronary artery disease in your family, can make you more likely than the average person without these factors to have angina, and coronary artery disease(CAD).3
Is there a connection between angina and weight?
As identified above, being overweight puts you at risk of having angina and CAD. Having more weight than appropriate for age and gender causes fat to build up around internal organs, including your heart.
When fat builds up around the heart, it gets into the wall of the coronary arteries( these carry blood to the heart muscles) and keeps reducing the size of the wall and the amount of blood the arteries can carry to the heart muscles.4
Being overweight can also lead to feeling tired a lot of time and not having as many physical activities as needed which put you at increased risk of having angina.
Types of angina
- Stable or Direct Angina: This is when a symptom of angina occurs due to some exertion such as exercising or stress. 5,1
- Unstable or Indirect Angina: This type of angina occurs even at rest and it requires more prompt medical attention.5
Unstable angina is caused by fat build-up in the wall of the heart arteries which leads to severe narrowing of the arteries, possible rupture of the arteries, and blood clots leading to insufficient blood and oxygen supply to heart muscles.6
Can excess weight cause angina?
Excess weight increases the amount of cholesterol in the blood, it also puts you at increased risk of having hypertension ( sustained high blood pressure), it increases the risk of having type 2 diabetes and these health conditions make you more likely to have heart disease and angina.4
Therefore, excess weight puts you at risk of having heart disease and angina.
When to contact a doctor
A sudden, intense, tight, or squeezing chest pain that runs to your left arm, jaw, or neck and doesn’t stop after resting, or continues for more than 10 minutes could be a heart attack.
If you experience such, call 911 for emergency service.7 If you have been diagnosed with angina, use your medication and rest. You can take another dose if the first dose does not alleviate it after 5 minutes.3
Do not forget to call 911 if the chest pain persists after 10 minutes.
Being overweight and obese have been closely linked to developing angina and heart diseases. Lifestyle modifications such as weight reduction through a healthy diet and exercising are important modalities in decreasing the risk of angina or are necessary adjustments in individuals who already have angina.
Maintaining a healthy weight alongside using appropriate medications prescribed by a physician means that most people with angina can live a normal healthy life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is angina?
Angina is dull, tight, or pressure chest pain that occurs as a result of reduced blood flow to the muscles of the heart.
What are the types of angina?
Angina can be divided into; Direct or Stable and Indirect or Unstable Angina.
Is weight linked to angina?
Yes, being overweight or obese has been linked to angina because the fat build-up can narrow the arteries that supply blood to the heart.
What factors put an individual at risk of having angina?
Being overweight, eating a diet with high and unhealthy fat, lack of sufficient physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking tobacco, and having people who have coronary artery disease in your family.
When should you call 911?
When you have sudden, intense chest pain that does not get better with rest and medication and lasts longer than 10 minutes.
- Angina [Internet]. NHS.UK. 2017 [cited 2022 Sep 17]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/angina/.
- Angina - Causes, symptoms & treatments [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 17]. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/conditions/angina.
- CDC. Coronary Artery Disease | cdc.gov [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021 [cited 2022 Sep 17]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/coronary_ad.htm.
- Obesity [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 17]. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/obesity.
- Hermiz C, Sedhai YR. Angina. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 [cited 2022 Sep 17]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557672/.
- Unstable angina [Internet]. www.heart.org. [cited 2022 Sep 17]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/angina-chest-pain/unstable-angina.
- Angina: Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments [Internet]. Harvard Health. 2014 [cited 2022 Sep 17]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/angina-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatments.