About This Condition
Angina, or angina pectoris, is chest pain due either to reduced blood flow to the heart or to certain other abnormalities of heart function.
Hardening (atherosclerosis) of the coronary arteries that feed the heart is usually the underlying problem. Spasms of the coronary arteries may also cause angina.
There are three main types of angina. The first is called stable angina. This type of chest pain comes on during exercise and is both common and predictable. Stable angina is most often associated with atherosclerosis. A second type, called variant angina, can occur at rest or during exercise. This type is primarily due to sudden coronary artery spasm, though atherosclerosis may also be a component. The third, most severe type is called unstable angina. This angina occurs with no predictability and can quickly lead to a heart attack. Anyone with significant, new chest pain or a worsening of previously mild angina must seek medical care immediately.
It is important for treatment and prevention of angina (and for overall health) to learn more about atherosclerosis
Common symptoms of angina include a squeezing pressure, heaviness, ache, or burning pain (like indigestion) in the chest that occur for 5 to 30 minutes at a time. These sensations are usually felt behind the breastbone but may also be felt in the jaw, neck, arms, back, or upper abdomen. Some people may also have difficulty in breathing or may become pale and sweaty. Symptoms of angina usually appear during physical exertion, after heavy meals, and with heightened emotional states, such as anger, frustration, shock, and excitement.
Smoking is discouraged, since nicotine prevents proper blood flow. In advanced stages, surgical repair of the blood vessels in the heart may be recommended. Treatment may be directed toward underlying medical conditions, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, anemia, hyperthyroidism, obesity, or lung disease.