Angina pectoris, or angina, is chest pain or discomfort that happens when a part of the heart does not get enough blood and oxygen. People who experience angina are at higher risk for a heart attack or cardiac arrest. Although more common in older adults, there are several conditions that can cause angina during childhood and the early teen years. Parents should seek medical attention if their child experiences signs of angina, which can include pain or tightening in the chest, or pain in the shoulders, neck, jaw or back.
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Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD), or coronary artery disease, is usually the chief culprit behind angina, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Diseases and Conditions Index. CHD exists when plaque builds up along the artery walls, stiffening the arteries themselves and reducing the flow of oxygen and blood to the heart muscle. Children and young teens who are overweight or obese, or who have type 2 diabetes, are at increased risk for angina and CHD. According to a 2003 to 2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, almost 17 percent of teens are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight.
Congential Heart Conditions
Congenital heart disease can occur when a heart condition has existed since birth. An example of a more common congenital heart condition is a hole in the heart. Sometimes doctors do not discover a congenital heart condition until late childhood or early adolescence, when a patient reports angina characteristics.
Familial hypercholesterolemia is a rare genetic condition that can raise blood pressure extremely high and can cause angina and ultimately heart attacks in teenagers. Patients with this condition should begin a regimen of cholesterol-fighting medications, according to University of Iowa Health Care. Because high cholesterol is a risk factor for both angina pain and heart disease, teens with high cholesterol but without this genetic condition should adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes a healthful diet and exercise.