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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

Angina is discomfort or pain in the chest that happens when not enough oxygen-rich blood reaches the muscle cells of the heart. The most common cause of angina is coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is usually caused by atherosclerosis. In this condition, fatty deposits (called plaque) build up along the inside walls of blood vessels that feed oxygen and nutrients to the pumping heart.

Angina occurs when one or more of the coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked. The discomfort of angina can be mild at first and gradually get worse. Or it may come on suddenly.

Although angina most commonly affects males who are middle-aged or older, it can occur in both sexes and in all age groups. Angina also is called angina pectoris.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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