Angina is a word used to describe pain caused by a reduction of blood flow to the heart. This results in the heart failing to receive an adequate supply of oxygen, which ultimately causes pain. Stable angina — also called angina pectoris — is the most common form of the condition. This term refers to chest pain that follows a predictable pattern. Stable angina can be both uncomfortable and painful, and typically indicates the presence of an underlying medical condition. Therefore, anyone experiencing such symptoms should make an appointment with a qualified health professional.
Narrowing of the Arteries
If a person has experienced a narrowing of the arteries for any reason, he or she may be at high risk for stable angina. Also referred to as atherosclerosis, narrowing of the arteries often prevents the heart from obtaining an adequate supply of oxygen. Substances such as plaque, cholesterol, fat, and calcium can build up within the artery walls if they have narrowed. This, in turn, reduces the heart’s supply of oxygen-rich blood. Narrowing of the arteries may be the result of an underlying condition, or it may be idiopathic, meaning a cause could not be identified.
Diabetes is another common cause of stable angina. This is because those with diabetes, particularly poorly controlled diabetes, often experience a thickening of the blood due to the presence of excess glucose. This thickening of the blood causes the heart to strain while pumping, and it is this strain that sometimes leads to stable angina.
Smoking tobacco products such as cigarettes can also lead to stable angina. This is because smoking significantly constricts all blood vessels, including those leading to and from the heart. This interferes with the heart’s ability to receive enough blood and oxygen, resulting in the pain and discomfort associated with stable angina. Fortunately, when someone quits smoking, the blood vessels immediately begin to repair themselves and almost always return to their normal capacity.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, obesity can cause stable angina in both men and women. The reason for this is that a person’s heart must work harder if he or she is significantly overweight. This strain often leads to chest pain experienced by those with stable angina. Losing even a modest amount of weight, however, can substantially reduce angina symptoms.
Coronary Microvascular Disease
According to John Hopkins University, stable angina may be the result of a condition called coronary microvascular disease. The latter is a type of cardiovascular disease that affects the smallest arteries of the heart. It is seen more often in women than men, although the reason for this is not yet known. A variety of treatments are available for coronary microvascular disease, and those who are effectively treated usually experience a decrease in the number of stable angina episodes they experience.
Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol levels that are too high are sometimes the cause of stable angina. This is because certain types of cholesterol clog human arteries and this can significantly thicken the consistency of a person’s blood. Therefore, the hearts of those with unhealthy cholesterol levels may have to labor excessively to properly distribute blood throughout the body.
A cause of stable angina that people often overlook is emotional stress. This may be because it is psychosomatic, a term that is often misunderstood. Psychosomatic does not mean that it is “all in your head.” Rather, it refers to a physical symptom brought on by an underlying cause that is mental or emotional in nature. Those under significant amounts of stress and pressure sometimes experience stable angina, and it manifests exactly as it does in those experiencing it due to an underlying physical condition.
There is current evidence that chronic kidney disease can cause stable angina in both men and women. Individuals with chronic kidney disease have experienced damage to their kidneys, which decreases their ability to eliminate waste and byproducts of protein synthesis from their blood. However, it is the abnormal serum creatinine levels that are believed to cause stable angina among those with kidney disorders, although the exact reason for this is still under study.
Dyslipidemia describes abnormally high levels of lipids in the blood. These include fat phospholipids, cholesterol, triglycerides, and any other substance categorized as a type of fat. Elevations of lipids in the bloodstream can lead to heart strain, even when the heart is at rest. Interestingly, the first symptom experienced by those with dyslipidemia is typically angina.
Resting too much can cause as many negative effects as resting too little. People who live sedentary lifestyles can sometimes experience stable angina. Experts believe this is because, like any muscle, we need to use our heart on a regular basis or it becomes inefficient. The less efficiently the heart beats, the more chance there is of straining it during times of physical exertion. This ultimately leads to episodes of stable angina.