Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Does angina damage the heart?"
My grandmother says she has angina but she doesn't seem worried. She's getting older, can this condition damage her heart or reduce her lifespan?
Angina is the term we use to describe the discomfort or pain that comes from episodes of ischemia (low blood flow) to the heart muscle itself. Angina is often described as a pressure or crushing sensation on the chest. Some people will describe the feeling of an elephant sitting on their chest. Angina is indicative of coronary artery disease or blockages in the vessels that bring blood to the heart muscle. Most of the time angina comes on during exertion. When it comes on at rest, it might mean that a blockage is getting worse or unstable. If angina is a symptom of worsening coronary artery disease or blockages, then it can lead to a heart attack which can damage the heart. In all cases, it should be followed and treated by a doctor. I suggest that your grandmother see and be followed by a cardiologist. A cardiologist will listen to her description of her symptoms and determine if it sounds like angina. If it does, then the doctor will likely want to order a stress test with imaging. This will involve her walking on a treadmill. They will then likely get pictures of the heart to see if there are areas that are not getting enough blood flow. If areas of low blood flow are identified, then she should probably undergo a cardiac catheterization to see if she needs a stent placement or perhaps even bypass surgery.
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