|Why Does The Body Produce Angina Pain?
Pain is usually the body's way of telling a person to STOP doing whatever is causing the pain. Angina pain is triggered by a person doing something which increases the heart's workload for blood and oxygen. This could be exercise, or physical activity. Normally the arteries which supply blood to the heart adapt to any increase in workload by expanding to allow more blood to flow through. However, if the arteries become clogged or stiff with cholesterol and fatty deposits (a process known as atherosclerosis) then they cannot supply enough blood during time of activity. This means certain organs, including the heart muscle itself, will be starved of oxygen which could lead to permanent damage. To protect itself from this, the heart produces angina pain to force the person to stop exercising.
What Are The Causes Of Stable Angina?
Angina is considered stable (image) where symptoms are predictable and have remained the same for several months. It is usually a symptom of coronary heart disease rather than a condition in its own right. This means that the underlying cause of coronary heart disease are the same causes of regular angina pain. Coronary heart disease (and angina) are caused by a narrowing of the arteries due to atherosclerosis. This process is quite complex and can be exacerbated by:
1. Eating a diet high in fat and cholesterol.
2. Persistent (chronic) high blood pressure (hypertension).
4. Sedentary lifestyle with little exercise.
7. Family history of heart disease.
CHD and narrowing of the arteries is a process which occurs over a number of years. As it gradually reduces the space through which blood can flow to the heart, the person will start to notice that certain activities will trigger an angina attack (episode of pain). In particular, activities that increase the heart's requirement for blood will cause an attack, such as:
1. Physical exercise or exertion like walking up or down a hill or stairs.
2. Emotional stress (which can cause the heart to pump faster).
3. Hot and cold temperatures.
4. Smoking (which is also one of the risk factors for angina).
What Are The Causes Of Unstable Angina?
Angina becomes unstable (image) when symptoms occur at rest or with very little physical activity. If someone used to have predictable symptoms, but now find they are occurring more frequently and with less exertion, unstable angina is usually diagnosed. It is a medical emergency because it indicates that the coronary arteries have become severely blocked and a heart attack may be imminent. It may develop quite suddenly if it is caused by a blood clot which forms at the site where the artery is already severely narrowed.
What Are The Causes Of Microvascular Angina?
This type of angina (image) affects the smaller blood vessels (capillaries) which supply the heart with blood. Also known as Cardiac Syndrome X (CSX), it is caused by spasms in the capillaries which temporiarly block or reduce blood flow. Patients with CSX do not necessarily have CHD but they usually do have significant risk factors for heart disease. The causes are still not known although we do know it is more common in women than men. Although it can produce angina-type pain and is usually treated with nitrate meds and calcium channel blockers it is not usually considered a serious condition. Studies show that people with CSX tend to have a low pain threshold and so they experience more intense symptoms of chest pain than those without the syndrome. CSX has also been linked to microvascular disease, a condition which damages the walls of the small capillaries. This disease is more common in women after menopause, which suggests that falling estrogen levels may also play a role. Triggers which can make symptoms worse include:
1. Alcohol consumption.
2. Hot and cold temperatures.
3. Emotional stress. Take the online stress test.
4. Smoking may cause the arteries to spasm.
What Are The Causes Of Variant Angina?
Also known as Prinzmetal’s angina (image), this is a fairly rare disorder. It is where spasms (vasospasms) occur in the main coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. When a spasm occurs blood flow is restricted. If the spasm lasts too long it can completely cut off blood supply to the heart muscle prompting a heart attack. Variant angina affects those both with and without CHD and often affects younger women who have a history of either:
Drugs: Cocaine or amphetamine abuse.
Raynaud's Phenomenon: This condition causes spasms in the blood vessels block blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears or nose. The area turns white and then blue. When blood flow is restored the area becomes red and then later returns to normal color. An attack can last a few minutes to several hours.
Migraine Headaches: Many women with variant angina have a history of migraines.
Endothelial Dysfunction: Where the lining of the arteries (endothelium) do not function normally.
1. Exposure to cold temperatures.
2. Emotional stress. Read about the dangers of stress.
3. Drugs used to tighten or narrow blood vessels.
5. Cocaine use.
Other Useful Articles:
Symptoms of Angina - Know the signs.
Angina Diagnosis - How symptoms are diagnosed.
Angina Treatment - Drugs and therapies explained.
Natural Treatment for Angina - Supplements, diet and health tips.
Living with Angina - Exercise, travel and anxiety.
Womens Health Questions - For more relevant questions.
Does Angina Mean I Am Going To Get A Heart Attack?
No, it does not necessarily mean you will get a heart attack. Only 1 percent of patients with stable angina have a heart attack within the first 12 months of onset of symptoms. If you do experience pain associated with physical exertion, it is however important to have it diagnosed and treated. This can prevent further deterioration and future risk of cardiac events like heart attacks. Even more important, the disease causing angina may even be reversed, or at the very least stabilized. Do read about the causes of heart attacks.