What causes unstable angina?

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is frequently the cause of angina. In coronary artery disease, arteries that supply the heart with blood narrow when deposits accumulate on the inside of the artery. These deposits are called plaques. The narrowing makes it much harder for blood to carry oxygen to the heart. In arteries that are already narrow, anything that would reduce blood flow suddenly, for example, a blood clot, can have a dramatic effect on the blood's ability to get to the heart. Sudden chest pain-unstable angina-can occur, indicating that a heart attack may be imminent. Anemia, in which there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen in the blood, can also contribute to angina.

Picture of angina cause

Continue Learning about Angina


Just a fancy name for chest pain or discomfort, angina often points to an underlying heart problem. Although you may experience pressure or a squeezing sensation in your chest, the feeling may also occur in your neck, jaw, shoulde...

rs, back or arms. These symptoms warn doctors that you may have coronary heart disease, the most common form of heart disease in adults. (The fatty material that causes heart disease restricts the arteries; this restriction causes a reduction of oxygenated blood to the heart muscles, leading to chest pain.) Not all chest pain is caused by heart problems. Angina can result from a lung infection, panic attack or even a blockage in an artery of the lung, called pulmonary embolism. Always see a doctor so he or she can determine why you are having chest pain.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.