Learn about the causes of Angina & find a practitioner in Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin to help you overcome Angina within New Zealand.
Angina (angina pectoris) is a pain in the centre of the chest caused by the heart muscles not receiving enough oxygen. This is due to a narrowing of the blood vessels which supply these muscles, usually caused by aging, but accelerated by smoking, cholesterol, obesity and diabetes.
Causes of angina
Angina occurs when the heart requires more blood than the coronary
arteries can supply. If the coronary arteries become too narrow, they
are unable to supply enough blood and the resulting symptoms are
referred to as angina. There are a number of different types of angina.
The most common cause of narrowing of the coronary arteries is coronary heart disease. This is caused by atherosclerosis whereby the inside of the coronary arteries have a build up of fatty substances known as atheroma. These form over a period of years and grow to a size that narrows the arteries and reduces blood flow.
Narrowing of the coronary arteries can lead to 'stable angina' while 'unstable angina' is due to the major narrowing of one of the arteries from the artheroma breaking open and causing a blood clot to form. The clot can disappear only to form again and each time this occurs (and narrows the artery) chest pain is felt while sleeping or at rest.
Sudden contraction or spasm of the coronary artery causing it to narrow is called 'variant angina'. This type of angina can be experienced even when there is no atherosclerosis.
Other causes of angina include:
Symptoms of angina
Someone with angina can experience some of the following symptoms:
• Chest pain or discomfort (tightness in the middle of the chest or a feeling of heavy weight on the chest)
• Neck pain, arm pain, pain in the jaw or pain between the shoulder blades
• A feeling of choking
• Feeling out of breath
These symptoms usually occur when the heart is having to work harder and requiring more blood, typically during physical activity or exertion. However, angina can be triggered by other factors such as: stress, excitement, anger, cold weather or after eating a large meal.
Symptoms of the three main types of angina (stable angina, unstable angina and variant angina) can be triggered by different factors.
This is the most common type of angina whereby pain is triggered by exertion when the heart is having to work harder. Stable angina has a regular pattern (hence its name) and the level of activity that triggers pain is predictable.
Pain can last anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes and is relieved by medication however it will often occur again if activity is resumed. Should the pattern of the angina alter then you should visit your doctor so treatment can be adjusted.
Unlike stable angina, unstable angina has no pattern and any pain can be triggered by little physical effort such as walking or when resting. Symptoms of pain are more frequent, more severe and can last much longer than stable angina. Medication typically has little effect on the symptoms. Unstable angina can follow stable angina but it may be the first type that is experienced.
This is the least common type of angina and typically affects women. Sometimes called 'Prinzmetals angina', the condition triggers pain without warning and usually while resting or sleeping.
Anybody experiencing the following symptoms should seek medical help:
Diagnosis of angina
You should first visit your GP if you've been experiencing symptoms
which you believe are similar to angina. The GP will take a medical
history and carry out a physical examination including blood pressure,
pulse rate, checking for swollen ankles and listening to the heart's
The GP may also send you for diagnostic tests including: