If you have a feeling of pressure or a squeezing in your chest, it may be angina. It can feel like a heart attack, but often it's a warning sign from your heart.
There's a lot you can do to stop it from happening. Usually, medicine along with lifestyle changes can control angina. If it's more severe, you may need surgery, too. Or you may need a stent, a tiny tube that props open arteries.
Heart disease has haunted generations of Robin Drummond's family. "I have a
family history of
heart disease on both sides," says the 55-year-old African-American and
resident of Hammond, La. "I've had uncles, aunts, and grandparents who've died
heart attacks and heart disease, and two of my mother's brothers died four
months apart. One had a heart attack in church, and four months later, one had
a heart attack in the post office."
When Drummond's father succumbed to heart disease...
The chest pain you feel with angina happens because there isn't enough blood flowing to part of your heart. It's a symptom of heart disease, and it's caused when something blocks the arteries that bring oxygen-rich blood to your heart.
Angina usually goes away quickly, but it can be a symptom of a life-threatening heart problem. Call your doctor if you have angina. It's important to find out what's going on and to talk about what you can do to avoid a heart attack in the future.
There are different types of angina:
Stable angina is the most common. Physical activity or stress can trigger it. It usually lasts a few minutes, and it goes away when you rest. It isn't a heart attack, but it's a sign that you're more likely to have one in the future. Tell your doctor if this happens to you.
Unstable angina. It happens while you're at rest or not very active. The pain can be strong and long lasting, and can come back again and again. It can be a signal that you're about to have a heart attack, so see a doctor right away.
Prinzmetal's angina (also called variant angina) is rare. It might happen at night during sleep or while at rest. The heart arteries suddenly tighten or narrow. It can cause a lot of pain, and you should get it treated.