Chest Pain and Angina
Angina: Don't Take It Lightly
Medical Author: Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Heart disease remains the number one killer in the United States, and each case is a potential failure because risk management wasn't aggressive enough. There are five major risk factors for heart disease:
- high blood pressure,
- high cholesterol,
- diabetes, and
- family history.
You can't do anything about the genes you inherited, but the other four need life long vigilance to minimize the risk of not only heart attack but also stroke and peripheral vascular disease. All risk factors involve narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the body and the consequences that occur when organs don't get enough blood and start to fail.
The chest pain from angina is a warning sign that a disaster may be on the horizon. The narrowing of a blood vessel to the heart occurs because of plaque or cholesterol buildup. When the plaque ruptures and completely blocks the artery, no blood will flow to parts of the heart muscle, and it begins to die. The clock starts when this occurs, and each minute that passes means that more heart cells die. When a patient gets to the hospital, the goal is to open the blood vessel with an angioplasty within 90 minutes.