Angina (cont.)

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What causes angina?

The most common cause of angina is coronary artery disease. A less common cause of angina is spasm of the coronary arteries.

Coronary artery disease

Coronary arteries supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. Coronary artery disease develops as cholesterol is deposited in the artery wall, causing the formation of a hard, thick substance called cholesterol plaque. The accumulation of cholesterol plaque over time causes narrowing of the coronary arteries, a process called arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis can be accelerated by smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and diabetes. When coronary arteries become narrowed by more than 50% to 70%, they may no longer be able to meet the increased blood oxygen demand by the heart muscle during exercise or stress. Lack of oxygen to the heart muscle causes chest pain (angina).

Coronary artery spasm

The walls of the arteries are surrounded by muscle fibers. Rapid contraction of these muscle fibers causes a sudden narrowing (spasm) of the arteries. A spasm of the coronary arteries reduces blood to the heart muscle and causes angina. Angina as a result of a coronary artery spasm is called "variant" angina or Prinzmetal angina (vasospastic). Prinzmetal angina typically occurs at rest, usually in the early morning hours. Spasms can occur in normal coronary arteries as well as in those narrowed by arteriosclerosis.

Coronary artery spasm can also be caused by use of cocaine. The spasm of the artery wall caused by cocaine can be so significant that it can actually cause a heart attack.


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Angina - Diagnosis Question: How was the diagnosis of your angina established?
Angina - Share Your Experience Question: Please describe your experience with angina.
Angina - Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms associated with your angina?
Angina - Causes Question: If known, what was the cause of your angina?
Angina - Other Chest Pain Experience Question: Please describe your experience with chest pain that was due to causes other than angina.
Angina - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment, procedures, or medication did you receive for angina?
Angina- Medications Question: What medications were you prescribed to treat your angina? Describe the side effects.
Angina - Surgery Experience Question: Please describe your experience with angioplasty and coronary artery bypass surgery.
Angina - Calcium Scoring Question: Have you had CT scan calcium tests? Please share your experience, including results.

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