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Types of Angina

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The three types of angina are stable, unstable, and variant. It is very important to know the differences among the types.

What Causes Angina?

Angina is caused by reduced blood flow to an area of the heart. This is most often due to coronary artery disease (CAD). Sometimes, other types of heart disease or uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause angina.

In CAD, the coronary arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle are narrowed due to the buildup of fatty deposits called plaque. This is called atherosclerosis. Some plaque is hard and stable and leads to narrowed and hardened arteries. Other plaque is soft and is more likely to break open and cause blood clots. The buildup of plaque on the inner walls of the arteries can cause angina in two ways: by narrowing the artery to the point where the flow of blood is greatly reduced and by forming blood clots that partially or totally block the artery.

The illustration shows a normal artery with normal blood flow (Figure A) and an artery containing plaque buildup (Figure B).

Who Is At Risk for Angina?

People with coronary artery disease or who have had a heart attack are more likely to have angina.

Unstable angina occurs more often in older adults.

Variant angina is rare. It accounts for only about 2 out of 100 cases of angina. People with variant angina are often younger than those with other forms of angina.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Angina?

Pain and discomfort are the main symptoms of angina. These symptoms

Some people say that angina discomfort is hard to describe or that they can't tell exactly where the pain is coming from. Symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, sweating, light-headedness, or weakness may also occur. Symptoms vary based on the type of angina.

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