DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please explain angina. I have it. I am under the impression that it is one step before a heart attack. Am I right? My father had angina and lived only three months after he was told what he had. He had a massive heart attack. I am concerned about this. What lies ahead for me? – R.T.
ANSWER: Angina is chest pain described as a squeezing or pressure sensation that comes on when a person is active, in a particularly stressful situation or is out and about in very cold weather. The pain leaves when the activity stops, the stress is relieved or the person becomes warm. The pain is felt in the chest, but it can spread to the shoulder, the arm or the neck.
Angina is a sign that the heart isn’t getting enough blood to support the stress, emotional or physical, that it must endure. It is the cry of a breaking heart. The cause of decreased blood flow usually is a buildup of cholesterol, fat and other material in the heart arteries.
Angina is quite treatable. It’s not a prelude to an inevitable heart attack if measures are taken to increase blood flow to the heart muscle. People with angina have to adopt programs that increase blood flow through clogged arteries. They have to lower their cholesterol, keep their blood pressure at desirable levels and take part in physical activities prescribed by their doctors. They take medicines that ease the heart’s burden and that open up clogged arteries. They might need angioplasty, the procedure where a doctor threads a balloon-tipped soft tube to the point of artery obstruction and then inflates the balloon to squash it.
I don’t know when your dad died, but I’m sure it was at a time when the opportunities that now exist for angina patients were not available.
The booklet on coronary artery disease, the basis of angina, explains the ins and outs of this common problem and what can be done for it. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 101W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853- 6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./ $6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a touch of arthritis in my hands. It makes unscrewing jars very hard for me. Can you suggest an exercise that will build up my hand strength? – A.K.
ANSWER: You need a firm rubber ball, not one that’s rockhard but one that you can push in. Hold the ball with one hand and squeeze it hard. Hold the squeeze for four seconds. Relax and take a short rest. Then repeat nine more squeezes, with a rest between each squeeze. Switch hands and repeat the exercise.
As you get stronger, do two or three sets of 10 squeezes with each hand. If a rubber ball becomes too easy for you, use a tennis ball. Tennis balls are hard to compress.
If these exercises hurt your hands, don’t do them.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853- 6475.
©2008 North America Synd.