You're shoveling snow from your driveway or mowing your yard and you have a sudden pain and tightness in your chest. You sit down for a few minutes and it goes away. It's tempting to ignore the pain as just the result of overworking yourself, but it may be a more major sign of a health problem. Here is why this is a sign to be seen by heart specialists as soon as you can before you experience a more painful heart attack in your future.
A Warning Sign from Your Heart
Your heart is like the other muscles in your body. It needs a steady blood supply with nutrients and oxygen in order to function. As you exert yourself during work or exercise, your heart needs more oxygen to meet the increased demand. If the oxygen is restricted to the heart, it send out a painful sign, called angina, to warn you that the heart muscle is being deprived of oxygen.
Special blood vessels, called the coronary arteries, carry blood to the heart tissue. Angina is a warning sign that the blood supply is being restricted to the heart by one or more of these blood vessels being partially blocked. A heart attack occurs when the blockage is so severe that the heart fails completely.
Causes of a Restricted Blood Supply
The heart doctors will look for one of these typical causes for your heart problem:
- Atherosclerosis - This is a disease that causes the blood vessels to become rigid and unable to pump blood through them. When your heart muscle needs more blood to respond to physical exertion, these blood vessels can't meet that demand.
- High cholesterol levels in the blood - When your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are out of balance, fatty deposits on the walls of the blood vessels can occur. These deposits restrict the blood flow through the vessels.
- Diabetes - This disease affects the walls of the blood vessels, making them less effective at pumping blood to your heart.
Treatment of the Pain and Heart Disease
Your doctors will evaluate the level of restriction in the blood vessels and suggest treatment based on the level of blockage in the blood vessels.
- A slight blockage may be treated by medication which reduces the build up on the blood vessel walls or restores the flexibility of the blood vessels.
- More serious blockages may require surgery to:
- place a stint into the blocked blood vessel to make it expand
- replace the blocked portion of the vessel with a graft from another part of the body
Your heart doctor may also give you medication to take when you have angina. This medication temporarily causes the blood vessels to expand so they can provide the heart with more blood and reduce your chest pain. This is only to be used while waiting for your surgery or other medication to permanently open up the affected blood vessels.