Angina is the squeezing, crushing like pain felt in the heart, because of insufficient blood and oxygen in the cardiac tissues. Angina typically begins as a slight painful sensation felt in the region immediately below the breastbone, slowly radiating out into the shoulders, the arm, or the jaw, the pain increases in intensity finally reaching a plateau-after which it begins to abate. An attack of angina can persist for up to 15 minutes at a time.
Atherosclerosis or the accumulation of plaque in the arteries that supply the heart with blood is the primary reason for angina in all patients with the condition. The muscles in the heart require blood and oxygen like any other body muscle, to do its work of pumping blood and to keep the circulatory system going heart muscles must be healthy and strong at all stages of a person’s life.
The heart muscles are starved of oxygen if a person having atherosclerosis performs strenuous exercise, this is because even if the arteries remain wide enough to provide sufficient blood flow during muscular rest, but they can’t supply enough oxygen when the physical demands on the cardiac tissue increases.
Angina attacks are therefore often triggered by any kind of sudden exertion, these include activities such as climbing up stairs, running for the bus, or shoveling snow, these activities can put a sudden strain on the pumping ability of the heart muscles leading to an attack of angina. A temporary block in the coronary arteries can also lead to angina attacks in some cases, even though these attacks are not connected to any physical activity. These can come about when a small blood clot forms on the surface of a blood vessel’s plaque leading to the clogging of the coronary artery. Spasms in the coronary artery can also give rise to attacks of angina.
There are basically three forms of angina, which include stable angina, variant angina and unstable angina. Many different reasons are responsible for the development of stable angina and these include smoking, stress, physical hard work as well as intensely hot or cold climates. Precisely speaking, stable angina is related to chest pain occurring in the arms as well as the back. It has been found that one develops unstable angina owing to total or partial congestion of any artery.
In fact, compared to stable angina, unstable angina is a more serious condition and people suffering from it are almost certain to have a heart attack. It may be noted that unstable angina never occurs owing to physical hard work, stress or even extreme climatic conditions. Moreover, unlike stable angina, it is not possible to treat unstable angina by using specific medications.
On the other hand, variant angina occurs rarely and just about two per cent people are known to have this condition. Usually, variant angina is associated with acute pain and it generally occurs when one is taking rest. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that use of certain medications can effective cure this condition.
Angina symptoms include:
• Chest pain or discomfort, possibly described as pressure, squeezing, burning or fullness
• Pain in your arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back accompanying chest pain
• Shortness of breath
These symptoms need to be evaluated immediately by a healthcare provider who can determine whether you have stable angina, or unstable angina that may indicate a possible heart attack.