Firstly, what is Angina?
Angina is a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles (). It’s a symptom of an underlying heart problem, usually coronary heart disease (CHD) (). Angina is typically described as squeezing, pressure, heaviness, tightness, or pain in the chest.
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot (). Without oxygenated blood, heart muscles start to die. A heart attack is a medical emergency, and immediate treatment is essential ().
What are the key differences: angina vs heart attack?
There are some key differences to be aware of when it comes to distinguishing between angina and a heart attack (). For example, your body sends warning signals when the heart doesn’t receive enough blood, indicating potential damage to the heart. This is where angina, a type of pain, comes into play. On the other hand, heart attacks occur when the narrowing of the blood vessels is severe or causes a blockage, leading to damage in the heart muscle. Basically, a heart attack is a medical condition, while angina is a symptom ().
What are ways to reduce the risk of angina and a heart attack?
Cardiovascular diseases, including angina and heart attacks, are influenced by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. While some elements, such as age, gender, ethnicity, and family history, are beyond our control, a significant portion of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases can be managed and reduced through conscious lifestyle choices ():
- Diet: A balanced diet plays a pivotal role in heart health. Consuming a diet rich in
vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Research suggests that eating 5 or more servings of vegetables daily can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by almost 17% ().
- Physical Activity: Regular exercise strengthens the heart and improves blood circulation. It’s recommended to be active for at least 2.5 hours spread throughout the week. This can include activities like walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. Alarmingly, it’s estimated that 4 out of 5 individuals don’t engage in enough physical activity ().
- Avoid Tobacco and Limit Alcohol: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are significant risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Quitting smoking and moderating alcohol intake can substantially reduce the risk of heart-related issues ().
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, especially if the extra weight is carried around the abdomen.
What foods should be avoided to lower the risk of angina and heart attacks?
Diet plays a crucial role in heart health. While it’s essential to incorporate heart-healthy foods into your diet, it’s equally important to be aware of foods that can increase the risk of cardiovascular issues ():
- Highly Processed Foods: An average Australian diet consists of about 35% highly processed foods. This includes baked goods (like cakes, biscuits, and pastries), chocolates, chips, sugary drinks, and certain takeaway foods such as pizzas and burgers. These foods are often high in added sugars, salts, saturated fats, and trans fats, which are detrimental to heart health ().
- Limit Salt and Sugar: Excessive salt can lead to high blood pressure, a significant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Similarly, high sugar intake can lead to weight gain and diabetes, both of which increase the risk of heart diseases.
- Portion Control: Over the years, meal sizes have expanded. It’s essential to be mindful of portion sizes to avoid overeating. A balanced meal should ideally consist of half vegetables, a quarter carbohydrates, and a quarter protein ().
- Trans Fats: These are artificial fats found in many processed foods and should be avoided. They raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Understanding the difference between angina and a heart attack is vital for timely medical intervention. Angina serves as a warning sign, while a heart attack indicates damage to the heart. For those looking to manage heart conditions or reduce cardiovascular disease risk, consulting an Accredited Practicing Dietitian can be beneficial. Learn more about our programs at Heart Smart Australia and book your free assessment today.