Figure A shows a normal artery with normal blood flow. Figure B shows an artery containing plaque buildup.
Angina is chest pain that occurs when an area of your heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina may feel like pressure or squeezing in your chest. The pain also may occur in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. It can feel like indigestion.
Angina itself isn't a disease. Rather, it's a symptom of an underlying heart problem. Angina is usually a symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease.
Plaque causes the coronary arteries to become stiff and narrow. The flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is reduced. This reduction in blood flow to the heart muscle causes pain and can lead to a heart attack.
If you have chest pain your cardiologist will want to determine if it's due to angina. To diagnose angina your cardiologist will do a physical exam and discuss your symptoms, and family history of heart disease. Your cardiologist may order tests to confirm the diagnosis.
It's thought that nearly 7 million people in the United States suffer from angina. About 400,000 patients go to their doctors with new cases of angina every year.
Angina occurs equally in men and women. It can be a sign of heart disease, even when initial tests don't show evidence of coronary artery disease..
Not all chest pain or discomfort is angina. A heart attack, lung problems (such as an infection or a blood clot), heartburn, or a panic attack also can cause chest pain or discomfort. All chest pain should be checked by a doctor.