Angina Pectoris is the medical term for chest pain. Angina Pectoris, or chest pain results when there is diminished blood flow to the heart. The most common reason for diminished blood flow is due to the buildup of cholesterol on the inside of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries supply the heart with oxygenated blood. Thus if there is a block, the heart doesn’t get adequate oxygen to feed the myocyte (heart) cells. There are three different types of Angina Pectoris; stable, unstable, and prinzmetal’s angina.
Stable angina can be described as it sounds, stable. It is predictable chest pain that occurs when a person is usually doing something physical that increases the requirement of blood and oxygen of the heart. The top three instances in which individuals may experience chest pain include: arguments, sex, and physical activity such as climbing stairs. These three events increase the oxygen and blood demand of the heart and if there is a blockage the heart will not receive enough blood to meet those demands. Thus the individual will experience chest pain. The important thing to note about stable angina is that when the activity stops, usually so does the chest pain. The reason the chest pain stops in stable angina after the activity stops is because the increased oxygen and blood demands of the heart have also stopped.
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Unstable angina is just as it sounds, unstable. It is unpredictable and can occur at any time during the day or night. Unstable angina can occur while at rest or while during exercise. This means that there is too much demand for the heart even with normal activities of daily living, and this results in chest pain that is unpredictable. Unstable Angina also usually lasts for more than 30 minutes and it is not relieved with Nitroglycerin. Unstable angina results in heart ischemia due to not enough oxygenated blood reaching the heart tissue. Heart ischemia is the step right before an individual has a heart attack and refers to the damage of actual heart tissue.
Prinzmetal’s angina is also known as Coronary Artery Vasospasm. Prinzmetal’s Angina occurs when there is increased oxygen demand required by the heart and the coronary artery spasms. This is temporary and once it resolves the individual’s chest pain will be alleviated. Nitroglycerine will alleviate this type of chest pain.
As one can see there are many different types of angina or “chest pain.” These are the precursors to having a heart attack. It is imperative to intervene as soon as possible, if one is experiencing chest pain in any of these settings. It is imperative to follow up with one’s medical provider so that they may refer to a cardiologist for appropriate testing. Close monitoring and testing is needed in order to prevent angina from progressing to an irreversible from of ischemia which is a Myocardial Infarction or “heart attack.”