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Angina - The Red Flag: August 05, 2011

Angina is a medical term used to describe cardiac related chest pain.

“The classical and typical description would be someone who has a pressure or crushing type of chest pain and it typically radiates to the arms and it’s associated with shortness of breath often times and sweating,” says Dr. Stephen Lee, an interventional cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

We’ve come to equate any chest pain as a sign of a heart attack, but that’s not always true.

“Probably the most common reason for someone to have chest pain that’s not heart related would be something related to their gastrointestinal system,” says Dr. Lee.

Acid reflux disease, or heartburn, can present as chest pains along with pleurisy, which is an inflammation of the chest or lungs. Anxiety can trigger chest pains as can extreme heat.

“It’s important for us to sort out those folks with heart related chest pain from those who don’t,” says Dr. Lee.

Because angina can be a red flag, warning of a heart attack, any chest pain should merit a trip to the doctor. Getting a medical evaluation is the sure fire way to know what’s going on with your heart.

“Commonly we would do an EKG in the office which is an electrocardiogram and that kind of gives us an idea as to whether or not there been some heart damage,” says Dr. Lee.

Angina occurs when the heart isn’t getting enough blood and is deprived of oxygen and nutrients. But some people persist in ignoring the signs.

“They just kinda you know they blow it off and think its not a big deal an then one day it really gets worse and they come to the hospital with a big heart attack,” says Dr. Lee.

The worse thing someone with chest pain can do is nothing at all.