What is Angina
That nagging pain in your chest might not be something to ignore. It is estimated that almost 6.4 crore Indian’s will suffer from coronary artery disease by 2015. Angina or ‘angina pectoris’ (Latin for squeezing of the chest) is chest pain, discomfort, or tightness that occurs when an area of the heart muscle receives less blood and oxygen. It is not a disease itself, but rather a symptom of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). CAD is the most common type of heart disease. Angina is usually the result of plaque build-up in the coronary arteries also called ‘atherosclerosis’. Narrow arteries increase the risk of pain, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and death.
Angina may manifest itself in the form of pain or discomfort in the chest that typically lasts from 10 to 15 minutes. The condition is classified by the pattern of attacks into stable, unstable, and variant angina.
- Stable (or chronic) angina is brought on when the heart is working harder than usual, such as during exercise. It has a regular pattern and can be predicted to happen over months or even years. Symptoms are relieved by rest or medication.
- Unstable angina does not follow a regular pattern. It can occur when at rest and is considered less common and more serious as it is not relieved by rest or medicine. This version can signal a future heart attack within a short time – hours or weeks.
- Variant (Prinzmetal’s) angina and micro-vascular (smallest vessels) angina are rare and can occur at rest without any underlying coronary artery disease. This angina is usually due to abnormal narrowing or relaxation (spasm) of the blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the heart. It is relieved by medicine.
Who gets angina?
Those at an increased risk of coronary artery disease are also at an increased risk of angina. Some of the common signs are -
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Cigarette smoking
- Being overweight or obese
- Metabolic syndrome
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history of heart disease
What causes angina?
Angina is most frequently the result of underlying coronary artery disease. The coronary areries supply the heart with oxygen rich blood. When cholesterol aggregates on the artery wall and hard plaques form, the artery narrows. It is increasingly difficult for oxygen rich blood to reach the heart muscle as these arteries become too narrow. In addition, damage to the arteries from other factors (such as smoking and high levels of fat or sugar in the blood) can cause plaque to build up where the arteries are damaged. These plaques narrow the arteries or may break off and form blood clots that block the arteries.