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Angina is the type of chest pain that happens when the blood supply to the heart becomes restricted
Angina is the term given to chest discomfort that happens when the blood supply to your heart becomes restricted. It is a symptom of coronary heart disease, not an illness in itself. Angina is your heart's way of complaining that it is not getting enough oxygen during physical exertion or stress.
This temporary shortage of oxygen (called an 'angina attack') to your heart muscle does not result in permanent damage to your heart. It usually passes when you stop the activity that brought it on or after taking GTN tablets or spray. Many people learn to recognise how much activity will bring on their angina. This is called stable angina.
Sometimes, when chest pain occurs suddenly it is unclear if it is due to unstable angina or a heart attack. Until tests confirm the diagnosis doctors sometimes call this Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS).
Chest pain can sometimes start off as a dull pain or ache. It's sometimes described as heaviness, burning, tightness, constriction or squeezing sensation, a heavy weight or pressure. For some people chest pain can feel similar to indigestion or heartburn.
When you make demands on your heart by increasing your heart rate during physical activity, or when you are upset or angry, the narrowed arteries cannot supply your heart muscle with oxygen quickly enough and pain develops. This is your heart's way of telling you that you need to take a rest.
Remember that not all chest pain is caused by coronary heart disease. Other causes of chest pain include:
Atheroma build up in a coronary artery causing a restricted blood flow
The build up of atheroma in the coronary arteries leads to coronary heart disease. There are a range of risk factors which have been proven to cause, or contribute to, coronary heart disease.