Angina refers to pain or discomfort in the chest that occurs when your heart muscle does not receive sufficient oxygen-rich blood. The experience of angina can be described as a feeling of squeezing or pressure in your chest. The pain or discomfort can also occur in other parts of your body, including jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, and back.
Angina is not considered a disease; it is actually a symptom of a heart problem. In most cases, it is an indication of coronary heart disease, the most common form of heart disease affecting adults. Coronary heart disease is caused by the buildup of plaque in your arteries, which hinders oxygen-rich blood from reaching your heart. Plaque buildup can also cause blood clots to form in your arteries, resulting in partial or complete blockage of blood flow. This can eventually lead to a heart attack. Angina can also be a sign of coronary microvascular disease. This type of heart disease affects the smallest coronary arteries in your heart, and it occurs more commonly in women than men.
There are several different types of angina, and they include stable angina, unstable angina, variant angina, and microvascular angina. Most people who suffer from angina have stable angina. This form of angina follows a regular pattern, and you can predict when it will occur and how severe it will be. Unstable angina is more dangerous, because you have no idea when it will happen. It is an indication that you will experience a heart attack soon. Although variant angina is very rare, it can cause severe pain when it strikes. It results from spasms in the coronary arteries, and it usually happens when you are at rest. Microvascular angina can be the most severe and longest lasting type of angina, and it cannot be treated with medication.
It is estimated that 7 million Americans are suffering from angina. In general, the condition affects men and women equally.