Chest Pain Health (cont.)

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Chest Pain Causes

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Heart Attack Causes

A heart attack is caused by coronary heart disease, or coronary artery disease. Heart disease may be caused by cholesterol buildup in the coronary arteries (atherosclerosis), blood clots, or spasm of the vessels that supply blood to the heart.

Risk factors for a heart attack are:

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • smoking
  • high cholesterol
  • family history of heart attacks at ages younger than 60 years, one or more previous heart attacks, male gender
  • obesity
  • Postmenopausal women are at higher risk than premenopausal women. This is thought to be due to loss of the protective effects of the hormone estrogen at menopause. It was previously treated by hormone supplements (hormone replacement therapy, or HRT). However, research findings have changed our thinking on HRT; long-term HRT is no longer recommended for most women.
  • Use of cocaine and similar stimulants.

Angina Causes

  • Angina may be caused by spasm, narrowing, or partial blockage of an artery that supplies blood to the heart.
  • The most common cause is coronary heart disease, in which a blood clot or buildup of fatty material inside the blood vessel (atherosclerosis) reduces blood flow but does not completely block the blood vessel.
  • Angina can be triggered by exercise or physical exertion, by emotional stress, or by certain heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias) that cause the heart to beat very fast.

Aortic Dissection Causes

  • Aortic dissection may be caused by conditions that damage the innermost lining of the aorta.
    • These include uncontrolled high blood pressure, connective-tissue diseases, cocaine use, advanced age, pregnancy, congenital heart disease, and cardiac catheterization (a medical procedure).
  • Men are at higher risk than women.
  • A similar condition is aortic aneurysm. This is an enlargement of the aorta that can rupture, causing pain and bleeding. Aneurysms can occur in the aorta in the chest or the abdomen.

Pulmonary Embolism Causes

Pulmonary embolism risk factors include:

  • sedentary lifestyle,
  • obesity,
  • prolonged immobility,
  • fracture of a long bone of the legs,
  • pregnancy,
  • cancer,
  • history or family history of blood clots,
  • irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias),
  • heart attack, or
  • congestive heart failure.

Women who use birth control pills and smoke cigarettes are at higher risk than women who have only one or neither of these risk factors (especially over the age of 35).

Spontaneous Pneumothorax Causes

Spontaneous pneumothorax (collapsed lung) occurs when the pressure balance between the sac that contains the lung and the outside atmosphere is disrupted.

  • Injury to the chest that pierces through to the lung sac is the most common cause of this condition.
  • This can be caused by trauma, as in a car wreck, bad fall, gunshot wound or stabbing, or in surgery.
  • Some very thin and tall people may suffer a spontaneous pneumothorax due to stretched lung tissues and abnormal air sacs in the upper portions of their lungs. It is possible for these abnormal air sacs to rupture with even a sneeze or excessive coughing.
  • Other risk factors for pneumothorax include AIDS-related pneumonia, emphysema, severe asthma, cystic fibrosis, cancer, and marijuana and crack cocaine use

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