Exertional angina, or stable angina, is a type of chest pain caused by the blockage of blood flow through a coronary artery, or blood vessel around the heart. According to Medline Plus, exertional angina occurs with activity or stress. Chest pain usually begins slowly but may worsen over the next few minutes before resolving. Rest and medications are used to relieve exertional angina.
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Chest pain is the most common symptom associated with exertional angina, states MayoClinic.com. It occurs because the body needs additional oxygen and nutrients with additional activity. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the parts of the body that need it to perform exertional activities. A patient with coronary artery disease has fatty deposits in the coronary arteries that prevent blood flow to the heart muscle, which needs it to effectively pump blood. This blockage can result in chest pain. A patient with a history of angina should take a break from physical activity and use prescribed anti-anginal medications if his doctor recommends. If chest pain is new or worse than in previous episodes, he should seek immediate medical treatment.
Pain can occur in other parts of the body. According to MayoClinic.com, pain can travel to the arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or back. This occurs because the nerves that sense chest pain also sense pain in other parts of the upper body. Although the arms, neck, shoulder and jaw are not experiencing pain, the brain senses pain signals from these areas because pain signals come from the same nerve. Thus, the brain incorrectly senses pain from other parts of the body during exertional angina. In this case, a patient should seek medical attention if the pain is new or different, or she should rest and take doctor-prescribed medications.
Shortness of Breath
A patient with exertional angina may also experience shortness of breath, states MayoClinic.com. This occurs because the heart also pumps blood to the lungs to be oxygenated. When the heart tissue is not receiving blood because of a blocked artery, it cannot effectively pump blood to the lungs. The lack of blood circulation to the lungs results in shortness of breath. In this case, a patient should seek immediate medical attention if shortness of breath is severe or if it is a new symptoms associated with exertional activity. A patient should never hesitate to seek medical attention if he is concerned that he is having a heart attack.