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Is my Pain Angina Pectoris?

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Yes, angina, or angina pectoris, is one word most people are familiar with. But what exactly is it?

Normally the process of atherosclerosis, or the build-up of fatty deposits inside your arteries is asymptomatic (meaning without having any symptoms), but this doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing is going on. Before suffering a heart attack, more often than not no symptoms are noticed.

In fact, angina is the primary symptom of coronary artery disease and, in the more severe cases, of a heart attack. It is typically experienced as chest pain and occurs when the heart muscle doesn't get as much blood as it needs. Angina is usually referred to as either:

  • Stable Angina (meaning it can be predicted).
  • Unstable Angina (less predictable and a sign of a more serious situation).
  • So, in summary, if your arteries get clogged up, blood won’t flow to the heart properly. If the heart doesn’t get the blood it needs it let’s you know by jolting you (angina) or killing you (heart attack). I know that’s shocking but that’s what happens.

    Angina pectoris is not a disease in itself, but the result of a disease: coronary heart disease. Sometimes angina is difficult to understand as there are no fixed rules.

    Angina Pectoris may be experienced in different ways and the symptoms may be described as being mild, moderate, or severe. However, more often than not we can state the following:

  • Many people feel a dull, heavy pressure that may be described as an elephant sitting on the chest.This is a common symptom of angina pectoris.
  • Pain often radiates to the neck, jaw, or left shoulder and along the arm.
  • On other occasions, a mild burning chest discomfort, sharp chest pain, or pain that radiates to the right arm or back may be described.
  • Sometimes it is more shortness of breath or fatigue rather than pain.
  • Angina can also be caused by large meals, which place an immediate demand upon the heart for more oxygen. However, in some cases this may not be angina at all. In fact, on occasions this may be confused with indigestion. There are several other conditions with symptoms similar to angina, such as intercostal neuralgia (pain on one side of the chest below the ribs), a fractured rib, pericarditis and others.
  • As we have seen, if the flow of blood is obstructed within the heart’s arteries angina pectoris may result. This is even more probable when the heart is placed under sudden stress, such as running for a bus, or having an argument, or cheering on your favourite football team after they have scored a goal.

    Remember, angina pectoris is a warning sign. An alarm bell that something is wrong. Never underestimate this feeling of discomfort. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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