Guide To Angina
|What Is A Risk Factor?
A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease. A risk factor does not cause the disease, but rather helps it along. However, just because a person has risk factors for a condition, it does not necessarily mean they will develop it. Sometimes people with no risk factors for a disease still go on to develop the disease. Usually however, the more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop symptoms. There are two types of risk factors: modifiable and non-modifiable. Non-modifiable means you can do nothing about it (for example simply being a woman may be a risk factor for certain diseases) and modifiable means you can do something about it (obesity and smoking are modifiable factors).
What Are The Risk Factors For Angina?
Age and Gender
Angina (pectoris) is more common in men than women before the age of 75. After the age of 75 it is more common in women. The main reason for this difference is that atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries which causes angina image) usually occurs earlier in men than it does in women. This is also why heart attacks in women tend to occur later in life than they do in men. When this buildup occurs it is referred to as coronary heart disease (CHD). Our article CHD in women explains the main differences between the genders. Angina which occurs before the age of 50 in women is more likely to be diagnosed as Prinzmetal's angina. Prinzmetal's is a type of chest pain in women (it is less common in men) that is caused by spasms in the arteries. It is not generally linked to CHD.
Family History of Heart Disease
Heart disease in women can run in the family. Researchers are still not sure why this is, whether it is due to some genetic mutation that is passed down from generation to generation or whether it is environmental (for example, mothers who cook fatty foods are likely to pass those cooking habits onto their daughters). If there is a history of early heart disease in your family it may be worth talking to a genetic advisor who can assess your personal risks and offer prevention advice as well as any necessary health screenings.
Menopause symptoms such as weight gain and hot flashes appear at root to be linked to falling levels of estrogen which occurs when we stop ovulating and periods cease. Microvascular angina (where the main arteries appear unblocked and free of disease but there may be some dysfunction in the tiny arteries which cannot be easily found by heart disease tests) often appears in or around menopause suggesting it may have something to do with falling levels of estrogen.
People with uncontrolled (not well managed) diabetes are at increased risk of developing CHD, one of the main causes of angina. This is because if diabetes is not managed it can damage the blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis. People with diabetes are also more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, both of which among others are considered causes of CHD. If you are diabetic, it is important to ensure you manage your condition properly.
High Cholesterol Levels
High levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream are harmful because excess lipids (fat) can be dumped along the lining of the arteries causing blockages (atherosclerosis). For this reason it is worth having an annual blood test to check your cholesterol levels; if levels are high you may be offered cholesterol drugs to reduce your levels as well as given advice on lifestyle changes. If you also smoke, have high blood pressure or diabetes then high cholesterol levels will multiply your overall risk factors for heart disease and stoke significantly.
High Blood Pressure
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a significant risk factor for CHD, as well as being one of the main causes of heart failure. As symptoms of high blood pressure (also called hypertension) are not always obvious, it is sometimes called the 'silent killer'. If blood pressure is high, over the years it can cause damage to the artery walls making it easier for fatty deposits to build up and blood clots to form. Do have your blood pressure checked regularly. If it is high your doctor will recommend treatment and lifestyle changes.
Smoking cigarettes raises the risk of atherosclerosis. Heavy smokers are also more likely to experience artery spasms (Prinzmetal's angina). Quitting smoking will immediately reduce your risks of all sorts of diseases.
Other Risk Factors
The other risk factors for heart disease also apply to angina. These include:
Obesity in women: Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. Losing weight if you are overweight or obese will reduce your overall risks of angina. It may also help reduce symptoms of angina in those already diagnosed with the condition.
Angina is more likely to be triggered by emotional stress in women than in men. See, is there an online test for stress? as well as the dangers of stress for women. Depression can also have an effect on the heart, causing angina-type pain. Read about the effects of depression.
Lack of Exercise
People who are sedentary (do not exercise much) are twice as likely to die of a heart attack as those who exercise regularly.
Drinking Too Much
Drinking too much alcohol can cause raised cholesterol and blood pressure.
Do you have other questions? See our womens health questions section for popular Q&A's.