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Dr David Leake discusses what angina is, the difference between ‘stable’ and ‘unstable’ angina, and how angina is diagnosed and treated
I’d like to tell you about angina. Angina is a pain, and it can be a pain in the neck, the jaw, the arm, the back, the shoulders. And it’s caused when the heart muscle is short of blood. So there’s atherosclerotic lesion in a coronary artery, or maybe more than one, and it’s restricting the amount of blood that goes to the heart muscle, and that’s seen as pain by the body. Now there’s two types of angina. There’s stable angina and unstable angina. Stable angina comes on when you exercise, and if you rest, it stops. So you know when it’s going to come and when it’s going to go away. Unstable angina’s different.
It can come on at any time, day or night. And if you rest, it may not go away. And that’s a more dangerous form. It tells you you’ve got quite a large atherosclerotic lesion in a coronary artery. What’s the treatment for angina? Well, drugs can be used, for instance, glyceryl trinitrate. If you take this, it will dilate blood vessels around the body and then the pain goes away. There are surgical treatments as well. There’s one called angioplasty, in which a balloon is fed up from the groin into the coronary artery. And then this balloon is inflated, and it squashes the atherosclerotic lesion back into the artery, so making the inside of the artery bigger so the blood can get through.
That can give pretty quick results taking away the angina. Another treatment is coronary artery bypass surgery, in which a normal blood vessel bypasses the coronary artery so the blood can get past the atherosclerotic lesion in this bypass.

Angina is usually caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the heart. It is most common in those over 65 years of age and affects nearly 2% of men and just over 1% of women in the United Kingdom.

In this video Dr David Leake discusses what angina is, the difference between ‘stable’ and ‘unstable’ angina, as well as how it is diagnosed and treated.

You can download the Week 2 supplement, which contains additional images and descriptions to help you understand the topics covered in this video.

Were you aware that there are different types of angina? What are the key differences?

British Heart Foundation resources

You can find out more about this topic in the following booklets produced by the British Heart Foundation:

If you would like to learn more about the surgical treatments used to tackle angina, see the British Heart Foundation’s educational videos about angioplasty and coronary bypass surgery in Step 3.19.

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Heart Health: A Beginner's Guide to Cardiovascular Disease

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