What causes angina?

Causes of Angina These things can trigger the pain of angina:

  • increased activity that makes your heart beat faster, such as running to catch a bus or climbing stairs
  • emotional stress
  • a spasm in a coronary artery while you are at rest
  • elevated blood pressure in the arteries in your lungs

The most common cause of angina is arteries that have been narrowed by the fatty deposits called plaque in the process called atherosclerosis. Blood flowing through these arteries may be able to supply enough of the oxygen and nutrients that your heart needs while you're at rest. But if you're running to catch a bus, feeling stress, or doing other things that cause your heart to beat faster, your heart needs more oxygen. When the blood vessels are narrowed, not enough blood and oxygen can flow through to meet that demand. So you may experience the pain or pressure of angina. This often stops a few minutes after you stop the activity that triggered it.


Angina can also be caused by a narrowing around the valve in the largest vessel of your heart, called the aorta. This is a condition called aortic stenosis. Angina can also be caused by high blood pressure in arteries in your lungs. This condition is called pulmonary hypertension.

You may have angina only while at rest rather than after physical activity or emotional stress. This condition is called variant angina or Prinzmetal's angina. It is caused by a spasm in a coronary artery. Often the pain is intense. Usually it occurs between midnight and 8 A.M. More than 6 of every 10 people who have variant angina have severe blockage in at least one major heart vessel.


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