People who have coronary artery disease experience a type of chest pain known as angina pectoris, which is more commonly called simply “angina” or “stable angina.”
In cases of heart disease, the heart’s coronary arteries — the trio of vessels that brings blood to the heart — become narrowed due to atherosclerosis, the buildup of a fatty cholesterol substance called plaque in the vessel walls, causing blockages.
Typically, angina is described as chest pain, but it can also manifest as pressure, heaviness, tightness, indigestion, or discomfort.
People with this kind of stable angina experience chest pain that is predictable, both in onset and intensity. Stable angina can be managed with cardiac medications such as nitroglycerin, which temporarily widens coronary arteries, lowering blood pressure and relieving the need for the heart to work so hard. The vessels then relax and the pain subsides.
In most cases, people with stable angina can live for years. But if a blood clot lodges in one of the coronary arteries, the result can be a heart attack.
In addition, heart disease is progressive, meaning that new formations of plaque can occur over the top of hardened ones. If that happens, stable angina can transform into unstable angina.
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