Angina Pectoris (cont.)
What causes angina?
Coronary heart disease
The most common cause for the heart not getting enough blood is coronary
heart disease, also called
coronary artery disease.
- In this disease, the coronary arteries become blocked, narrowed, or otherwise damaged.
- They can no longer supply the heart with all of the blood it needs.
Most cases of
coronary heart disease are caused by
atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which a fatty substance/cholesterol builds up inside the blood vessels.
- These buildups are called plaques, and they can block blood flow through the vessels partially or completely. Multiple risk factors, particularly:
Coronary artery spasm
Another cause of unstable angina is coronary artery spasm.
- Spasm of the muscles surrounding the coronary arteries causes them to narrow or close off temporarily. This blocks the flow of blood to the heart muscle for a brief time, causing angina symptoms.
- This is called variant angina or Prinzmetal angina.
- This is not the same as atherosclerosis, although some people have both conditions.
- The symptoms often come on at rest (or during
sleep) and without apparent cause.
Cocaine use/abuse can cause significant spasm of the coronary arteries and lead to a heart attack.
Other causes of angina
Other causes of angina symptoms include the following:
- Blockage of a coronary artery by a
blood clot or by compression from something outside the artery
- Inflammation or infection of the coronary arteries
- Injury to one or more coronary arteries
- Poor functioning of the tiny blood vessels of the heart (microvascular angina)
When a person has underlying atherosclerosis, spasm, or damage to the coronary arteries, angina symptoms usually are set off by one of the following triggers:
- Physical exertion or
- Exposure to
- Decreased oxygen content in the air you breathe (for example flying in an airplane or at high altitudes)
- Using a stimulant such as
smoking cigarettes (which lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/31/2016
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