In today's society, people are gaining medical knowledge at quite a fast pace. Treatments, cures, and vaccines for various diseases and disorders are being developed constantly, and yet, coronary heart disease remains the number one killer in the world.
The media today concentrates intensely on drug and alcohol abuse, homicides, AIDS and so on. What a lot of people are not realizing is that coronary heart disease actually accounts for about 80% of all sudden deaths. In fact, the number of deaths from heart disease approximately equals to the number of deaths from cancer, accidents, chronic lung disease, pneumonia and influenza, and others, COMBINED.
One of the symptoms of coronary heart disease is angina pectoris. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not take it seriously, and thus not realizing that it may lead to other complications, and even death.
THE HUMAN HEART
In order to understand angina, one must know about our own heart. The human heart is a powerful muscle in the body which is worked the hardest. A double pump system, the heart consists of two pumps side by side, which pump blood to all parts of the body. Its steady beating maintains the flow of blood through the body day and night, year after year, non-stop from birth until death.
The heart is a hollow, muscular organ slightly bigger than a person's clenched fist. It is located in the centre of the chest, under the breastbone above the sternum, but it is slanted slightly to the left, giving people the impression that their heart is on the left side of their chest.
The heart is divided into two halves, which are further divided into four chambers: the left atrium and ventricle, and the right atrium and ventricle. Each chamber on one side is separated from the other by a valve, and it is the closure of these valves that produce the "lubb-dubb" sound so familiar to us. (see Fig. 1 - The Structure of the Heart)
Like any other organs in our body, the heart needs a supply of blood and oxygen, and coronary arteries supply them. There are two main coronary arteries, the left coronary artery, and the right coronary artery. They branch off the main artery of the body, the aorta. The right coronary artery circles the right side and goes to the back of the heart. The left coronary artery further divides into the left circumflex and the left anterior descending artery. These two left arteries feed the front and the left side of the heart. The division of the left coronary artery is the reason why doctors usually refer to three main coronary arteries. (Fig. 2 - Coronary Arteries)
SYMPTOMS OF CORONARY HEART DISEASE
There are three main symptoms of coronary heart disease: Heart Attack, Sudden Death, and Angina.
Heart attack occurs when a blood clot suddenly and completely blocks a diseased coronary artery, resulting in the death of the heart muscle cells supplied by that artery. Coronary and Coronary Thrombosis2 are terms that can refer to a heart attack. Another term, Acute myocardial infarction2, means death of heart muscle due to an inadequate blood supply.
Sudden death occurs due to cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest may be the first symptom of coronary artery disease and may occur without any symptoms or warning signs. Other causes of sudden deaths include drowning, suffocation, electrocution, drug overdose, trauma (such as automobile accidents), and stroke. Drowning, suffocation, and drug overdose usually cause respiratory arrest which in turn cause cardiac arrest. Trauma may cause sudden death by severe injury to the heart or brain, or by severe blood loss. Stroke causes damage to the brain which can cause respiratory arrest and/or cardiac arrest.
People with coronary artery disease, whether or not they have had a heart attack, may experience intermittent chest pain, pressure, or discomforts. This situation is known as angina pectoris. It occurs when the narrowing of the coronary arteries temporarily prevents an adequate supply of blood and oxygen to meet the demands of working heart muscles.
Angina Pectoris (from angina meaning strangling, and pectoris meaning breast) is commonly known simply as angina and means pain in the chest. The term "angina" was first used during a lecture in 1768 by Dr. William Heberden. The word