Angina pectoris (or simply angina) is recurring chest pain or discomfort that happens when some part of the heart does not receive enough blood and oxygen. Angina is a symptom of coronary heart disease (CHD), which occurs when arteries that carry blood to the heart become narrowed and blocked due to atherosclerosis or a blood clot.
Angina pectoris occurs when the heart muscle (myocardium) does not receive an adequate amount of blood and oxygen needed for a given level of work (insufficient blood supply is called ischemia). The following are the most common symptoms of angina. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- A pressing, squeezing, or crushing pain, usually in the chest under the breast bone, but may also occur in the upper back, both arms, neck or ear lobes
- Pain radiating in the arms, shoulders, jaw, neck, and/or back
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness and/or fatigue
The chest pain associated with angina usually begins with physical exertion. Other triggers include emotional stress, extreme cold and heat, heavy meals, excessive alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking. Angina chest pain is usually relieved within a few minutes by resting or by taking prescribed cardiac medications, such as nitroglycerin.