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(9) Heart Attack and Cardiac Disorders

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Angina Pectoris

coronary2

What is angina pectoris or angina?

Angina or angina pectoris often is the first symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD) and, in some cases, of a heart attack.

Often, angina can precede heart attack by weeks or even months prior to the attack. Angina is caused by insufficient blood supply to the heart muscle (the myocardium) as a result of one or more narrowed (stenosed) coronary arteries. It is caused by atherosclerosis (commonly called hardening of the arteries). The medical term for heart muscle damage resulting from insufficient blood supply to the tissues is myocardial ischemia; damage from this disorder is reversible. On the other hand, a lack of blood supply to the heart muscle caused by a blockage of one or more coronary arteries produces permanent damage to a portion of the heart muscle. Such damage is the worst event of coronary artery disease; it’s what most people call a heart attack (myocardial infarction in medical terms).

Various symptoms of angina may differ considerably among individuals and can be mild, moderate, or severe. Chest pain may be a dull, heavy pressure as though a heavy object is crushing your chest. Pain may radiate to your neck, jaw, left shoulder, and arm (and, in some cases, the right arm, both arms, and the back).

This pain can act as a mild burning chest discomfort, but it may also be a sharp chest pain.

In some cases, affected persons may feel little or no chest pain. Instead of chest pain, they may experience shortness of breath (dyspnea), marked weakness, fatigue, or palpitations (feeling of abnormally rapid heart beats). The term silent ischemia is used to describe the absence of pain in patients with known coronary artery disease. Some affected persons may experience a higher sensitivity to heat (a warm feeling) on the skin with the onset of angina. Angina often is triggered by eating a large meal, by engaging in sudden vigorous exercise, or by feeling emotional excitement, stress, or anger.

Angina can precede heart attack by weeks or even months prior to the attack.

Terms:

Myocardial – ischemia damage caused by insufficient blood supply to the heart muscle.

Dyspnea - shortness of breath

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