In some cases chest pain can be due to angina pectoris or angina, and is due to a lack of blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscle – generally as the result of an obstruction or spasm of the coronary atreries. Coronary artery disease in the main cause of angina as it causes an obstruction via artherosclerosis (hardening of an artery). The pain usually lasts for 3-5 minutes. Any chest pain lasting a few seconds is NOT angina.
There is no strong link between the severity of the pain and the amount of oxygen deprivation. Eg. A heart attack can occur without prior pain.
However, worsening angina attacks, the sudden onset of angina at rest, and angina lasting more than 15 minutes are symptoms of unstable angina, which can be a sign of myocardial (heart muscle) infarction (oxygen deprivation) and lead to a heart attack.
Most persons complain of discomfort rather than pain. The discomfort is described as a pressure, heaviness, tightness, squeezing, burning and choking. Apart from the chest area, anginal pain may be experienced in the abdomen, back, jaw or shoulders and inner left arm. The pain can be accompanied by breathlessness, nausea and sweating.
Angina can be triggered by physical exertion or emotional stress. It is also exacerbated by having a full stomach during cold temperatures. Cold temperatures in general, and a blood sugar imbalance, can also be precipitating factors.
Smoking, a diet high in fats, a lack of exercise, excess weight, high blood pressure and diabetes.
This may require lifestyle changes, medication, angioplasty, magnesium supplements, breathing retraining, stress management, acupuncture and exercise.
Source: Camelot international Pathophysiology (2013) pg. 61-62