Angina is a condition characterized by chest pain due to a temporary lack of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. The three types have different symptoms and treatment options. Stable angina occurs when the heart is working harder than usual and generally goes away with rest; unstable angina is dangerous and requires emergency treatment; variant angina occurs at rest and can be relieved by medicine.
What Is Angina?
More than 6 million Americans live with angina pectoris, or angina for short. Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when the heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood for a short time. The inadequate blood flow is caused by narrowed coronary arteries, which are the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. A bout of angina is not a heart attack, but it means that you're more likely to have a heart attack than someone who doesn't have angina.
Understanding the Heart and Coronary Arteries
In order to understand the cause of angina, it is often helpful to understand the heart and the coronary arteries. Like any muscle, the heart needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients, which are carried to it by the blood in the coronary arteries. Similar to other muscles, the harder the heart is working, the more oxygen and nutrients it needs. However, the coronary arteries can become narrowed or clogged, which can decrease the amount of blood that goes to the heart muscle. When the coronary arteries cannot supply enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart, angina symptoms can occur.
Types of Angina
There are three types of angina:
Stable angina is the most common type. It occurs when the heart is working harder than usual. There is a regular pattern with this condition. After several episodes, you learn to recognize the pattern and can predict when it will occur. The pain usually goes away in a few minutes after you rest or take your angina medicine.