Angina-chest pain from Coronary Artery Disease- is the medical term for the specific type of discomfort someone experiences when their heart muscle does not get enough blood to it.
The underlying cause of the Angina is the build-up of fatty deposits (called “plaques”) commonly found in Coronary Artery Disease.
- It may feel like pressure or a squeezing pain in the chest, described as feeling like an elephant is standing on it.
However, and this is important, the pain may extend to the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back, and even feel like indigestion.
As we’ve learned with heart disease in general, there’s no “one size fits all” variety.
There are 3 recognized types of angina:
1. “Stable” Angina:
- This is the most common variety. It’s fairly predictable as it comes on with exertion, such as with exercise, and goes away with rest.
➡ It lasts for a short time, five minutes or less
➡ It may feel like indigestion or bad heartburn
➡ The pain may spread to the arms, back, or other areas
➡ It may be triggered by stress
Other symptoms may be present:
- Pain in your arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back, along with the chest pain
- A feeling of tiredness
- Shortness of breath
- Anxiety, sometimes accompanied by sweating and dizziness
2. “Unstable” Angina is a medical emergency
It is felt even at rest
- It’s unexpected
- It is usually more painful and lasts longer (up to 30 minutes) than stable angina
- It may be a sign of a heart attack
3. Variant (called “Prinzmetal’s) Angina
- Usually happens when you’re resting
- It is often severe
- It may be relieved by angina medication
It is important to note that women may experience different symptoms from those considered “classic.”
- For instance, instead of that “elephant on the chest” feeling, which is a squeezing type of sensation, a woman’s pain may feel like stabbing or a sharp pain.
- Women are also more likely to have symptoms like nausea, shortness of breath or stomach pain, and so may ignore them, leading to serious delays in obtaining treatment.
The risk of heart disease, and therefore the experience of Angina Pectoris is much greater when a person’s lifestyle includes:
- High Blood Pressure
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Family history of heart disease
- Excess weight
The most dangerous complication of angina is a heart attack. As always, it is extremely important to pay attention and seek medical care for any new or recurring symptoms that may indicate heart complications.
Women, you especially, please don’t ignore these symptoms, make light of them, or try to treat them with over the counter medications, especially if they are new to you, or you have been experiencing them for some time.