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What is Angina Pectoris by John Merz

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Angina Pectoris is the title given to chest pain due to a lack of blood supply to the heart. The name comes from the Latin words angere, meaning to choke or strangle, and pectus, meaning chest. The name was given because of the feeling of pressure on one’s chest that feels like a tight grip squeezing down. This pain is commonly confused with the onset of a heart attack. Though chest pain is a sign of a heart attack occurring, angina pectoris is not a heart attack. This pain is caused by coronary arteries with an inability to supply the heart properly with blood.

Coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply the heart itself with blood. These should not be confused with the arteries connecting to the heart through which the blood is pumped. The blood from coronary arteries carries oxygen which is necessary for the myocardium (muscular tissue that makes up the heart) to function properly. These blood vessels are very small so anything that hinders blood flow through them is dangerous with a potential for heart failure.

There are two types of angina, stable and unstable. Stable angina is chest pain that happens regularly and is brought about by the same things each time. Walking a long distance and feeling chest pain is an example of this type. Stopping and resting will usually stop the pain. Unstable angina occurs at random and physical exertion does not need to be present. This chest pain can occur at any time and lasts longer than that of stable angina. High amounts of stress play a great deal in both types.

Coronary heart disease is a major cause of angina pectoris. Coronary heart disease is when the coronary arteries shrink in size, become blocked, or are physically damaged in some way. This disease is a type of unstable angina. Arteriosclerosis, the hardening of arteries, is a common cause of this disease and aids in blocking the passageway of blood through a buildup of plaque along the inside of the blood vessel walls. When these arteries have the diameter of their tubes reduced, the amount of blood traveling is exponentially decreased.

Another cause of angina pectoris is due to coronary artery spasm. This occurs when the muscles near these blood vessels cause constriction and reduce blood flow. This is the rarest form of angina cases. It often happens at rest and can be the most painful because the spasms can sometimes completely cut off flow through arteries causing the heart to go without oxygen. Due to the spontaneity of this disease, it is also an unstable angina.

If tightness and squeezing feelings of pain in the chest occur it is best to contact a doctor, as is the case with any irregular pain. Because the initial symptoms are so similar to heart attacks it is necessary to receive medical help for clarity of what is causing the pain. Treatments for angina are relatively minimal and depending on the condition are not always effective. If this chest pain starts it is best to stop and rest. In cases of stable angina, this will normally stop the pain. If pain continues sublingual (taken under the tongue) nitroglycerin tablets can be administered to increase the diameter of the arteries allowing blood flow to continue as usual. If the condition is caused by unstable angina rest and nitroglycerin tablets may not always work.

Angina pectoris is a very serious condition because it affects the heart. Proper exercise and a healthy diet are good ways of reducing and avoiding this disease. If angina is a preexisting condition taking nitroglycerine tablets shortly before exercising is a good way to keep the pain from happening when doing physical activities.

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