What is Angina

The pain starts with constriction in the center of the chest, then radiates to the throat, back, neck, jaw, and down the left arm. You break into a sweat, struggle for breath, and feel nauseated and dizzy. You may assume you're in the throes of The Big One—a full-blown, chest-crushing heart attack—but within ten minutes or so, it's over, and the pain gradually subsides. What you've experienced is not a heart attack but an attack of angina pectoris.

Some three million Americans suffer from angina, a painful episode that occurs when the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen. (This is known as myocardial ischemia.) Most angina attacks occur when the heart, damaged by high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, is stressed by physical exertion, emotional upset, excessive excitement, or even digestion of a heavy meal.

What is AnginaAttacks can be brought on by walking outside on a cold day, jogging to catch a bus, or hearing particularly distressing news. Angina attacks often serve as painful reminders that the heart has been damaged, and a full-blown heart attack may follow unless steps are taken to mend your ailing heart.


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