Healthy Living

What causes angina?

The muscle of the heart needs its own supply of oxygen and nutrients so that it can pump blood around your body. The coronary arteries deliver oxygen-rich blood to the hearts muscle. Two main coronary arteries (the left and the right) divide many times so that the blood reaches all the parts of the hearts muscular wall. 

The coronary arteries can become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls. (This process is called atherosclerosis and the fatty material is called atheroma). In time, the artery may become so narrow that it cannot deliver enough oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle when its demands are high such as when you are doing exercise. The pain or discomfort that happens as a result is called angina. 

You are particularly likely to develop atherosclerosis if you: 

  1. 1. Smoke any form of tobacco.
  2. 2. Have high blood pressure.
  3. 3. Have a high blood cholesterol level.
  4. 4. Take little physical activity, or have diabetes.

Other risk factors are being overweight or obese, and having a family history of relatives having a heart attack or angina before the age of 55 for a man or 65 for a woman. (A risk factor is something that increases your risk of developing atherosclerosis).