Angina pectoris is caused by a temporary inability of the
coronary arteries to supply sufficient oxygenated blood to
the heart muscle. The pain is felt in the chest and along
the left arm. The pulse may become rapid and irregular.
Angina pectoris commonly results from a disease of the wall
of a coronary artery which causes it to narrow. This change
in size of the artery prevents the blood from flowing
freely to the heart muscle. The blood flow may also be
affected when an artery is blocked by a blood clot.
The disease usually appears after middle age and can appear
suddenly. The pain may be precipitated by emotional strain,
walking, running, or other physical exertion. The pain is a
feeling of constriction rather than sharp or knifelike. The
intensity varies from mild discomfort to severe. It
frequently radiates to the left shoulder and then down the
left arm to the elbow or wrist. The typical seizure lasts
only a few minutes. Long periods of time may elapse between
attacks during which time the person exhibits no negative
symptoms and feels perfectly well.
Some remedies that provide relief from the pain are
nitroglycerin tablets or inhaling fumes of amyl nitrite. To
prevent attacks, sufferers from the disease should also
avoid physical and emotional strain, exercise, and whatever
else has been known to cause an attack. Gradual weight
reduction is strongly recommended in obese patients. The
value of a low-fat diet is questionable, but moderation in
dietary fat should be recommended for all patients. Smoking
should be prohibited and alcoholic beverages are allowed in
Average life expectancy is about 5 to 7 years from onset;
however, the first attack may be fatal. Prognosis depends
largely on the underlying disorder.
False angina is a pain in the chest close to the heart,
caused by nervousness, neuralgia, or rheumatism. It is not
caused by disease of the heart. These pains do not move
along the body, and are not a cause for alarm. False angina
pains do not affect the circulation of the blood.