Angina & Heart Attack – The Cause

Angina & Heart Attack - The Cause

What causes Angina? How about Heart Attack?

Angina is caused by a narrowing of the coronary arteries, usually from a build-up of plaque from high cholesterol. This causes a rise in blood pressure and a decrease in the amount of oxygenated blood getting to the heart muscle. The result is chest pains, or Angina Pectoris (literally “Strangled Chest”). Angina can usually be treated effectively by means of rest, which decreases the pulse rate, and by the use of GTN medication which dilates the coronary arteries and lowers the blood pressure. In most cases, you will not need to call an ambulance for Angina since the condition will respond to treatment within about 3 to 8 minutes.

On the other hand, a Heart Attack happens when there is a complete blockage in a coronary artery. This prevents any oxygenated blood at all getting through to an area of the heart muscle, which causes it to die. A heart attack will generally not respond to rest and GTN medication, and may go on for 30 minutes or more. Without hospital treatment, a Heart Attack can lead to a Cardiac Arrest where the heart goes into fibrillation (a chaotic rhythm) or stops altogether (asystole). Blood will cease to be pumped around the body by the heart and, in turn, the casualty will stop breathing. If you suspect a heart attack it is imperative that you call 999/112.

If Cardiac Arrest occurs, CPR (compressions and rescue breaths) must be administered promptly, otherwise the casualty’s brain will begin to suffer from lack of oxygen within 3-4 minutes, resulting in brain-death around 6 minutes.

Download our Angina & Heart Attack fact sheet