The diagnosis of angina pectoris is largely based on the patient’s description of the characteristic angina associated with the condition. Usually, this means symptoms brought on by exertion and then settling quickly with rest or the use of GTN. GTN is a commonly used drug that improves the circulation and supply of oxygen to the heart muscle.
The diagnosis is usually confirmed by performing tests such as:
- Blood tests to check the level of fats (called lipids) in the blood.
- A heart tracing called an electrocardiogram (usually abbreviated to ECG).
- An ECG while walking on a treadmill, usually called an exercise ECG or exercise test.
Your doctor is also likely to measure your weight and blood pressure and emphasise the need to stop smoking.
Even if you are suffering from angina pectoris, these tests could prove normal and further tests may be required such as an echocardiogram (an easily performed scan of the heart), myocardial perfusion scan or a coronary angiogram (an X ray dye test performed under local anaesthetic to look at the heart arteries in more detail).
Angina Pectoris - Treating
Patients with angina are usually recommended to make lifestyle modifications and to take medication.
If your doctor thinks that you have angina he or she will advise you about lifestyle modification and supply you with glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) to take when you are experiencing symptoms. GTN can be taken either as a spray or in tablet form to put under the tongue.
There are several treatment options available for patients suffering with angina pectoris. These are tailored to patients needs, dependent upon their individual circumstance. They can be divided into four main groups:
- Lifestyle modification such as, stopping smoking, regular exercise, together with reducing weight and eating a balanced but low fat diet.
- Tablets, including anti-platelets, beta-blockers, nitrates, calcium channel blockers and potassium channel openers, all act in different ways to improve the supply of oxygen to the heart muscle.
- Balloon-stretching of coronary arteries, known as angioplasty or PTCA.
- Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (usually abbreviated to CABG or cabbage) where narrowings in the coronary arteries are bypassed using veins from the legs or arteries from inside the chest wall or forearm.
With a careful programme of lifestyle changes, together with treatment if needed, most patients with angina pectoris can enjoy a relatively normal lifestyle.