Health encyclopaedia - Alphabetical Topic List

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Angina is not a disease. It is a pain, a symptom of another disease, the very common condition called atherosclerosis, which affects many arteries.

In this case, the arteries concerned are the coronary arteries of the heart. These two arteries and their branches supply the very active muscle of the heart with the blood it needs to keep beating. If they can provide enough blood so that the heart muscle gets the amount of glucose fuel and oxygen it need for its energy supply, the heart goes on beating painlessly.

But if the coronary arteries have been narrowed and can’t get the blood to the heart muscle fast enough, abnormal levels of substances collect in the muscles to the point of causing pain. This pain is angina.

The full name for the symptom is angina pectoris. This is Latin for ‘pain in the chest’. The symptom is far more common in men than in pre-menopausal women. After the menopause, women who are not on HRT are as likely to get angina as men are as they no longer have the same hormone protection.