If you have ever been rushed to the hospital with a crushing pain in your chest only to be told you did not have a heart attack, you may be suffering from a condition known as angina pectoris. Angina is chest pain that occurs due to a lack of blood flow to the heart. Usually, the chest pain occurs upon exertion or during times of stress and then is relieved when the patient rests or relaxes. Many things can bring on an attack of this type of chest pain, from coronary artery spasms to an irregular heartbeat. However, coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common cause of angina due to plaque buildup in the arteries limiting blood supply to the heart. About 10 million Americans suffer from angina. There are around 500,000 new cases of angina diagnosed every year.
The difference between an actual heart attack and angina is that the blood flow is cut off only temporarily. While both heart attacks and angina have the same cause, angina is less likely to cause damage to the heart muscle. Angina should not be ignored and needs to be worked up by a doctor since it is a symptom of coronary artery disease and can progress to a heart attack in the future.