The first symptom that appears in the patient is oppressive chest pain on exertion, occasionally radiating to the arm, jaw or back that diminishes with rest. This discomfort lasts for less than 30 minutes and is occasionally accompanied by sweating and nausea.
The cause is usually a blockage of one or more coronary arteries by “fatty plaques” or a blood clot. These plaques narrow the lumen of the artery and impede the correct flow of blood to the cardiac tissue.
But, are these symptoms typical of infarction or angina pectoris?
The differences between the two are minimal, but fundamentally respond to the time of obstruction of the vessel. In the case of infarction, the obstruction time is longer and ends with a fatal outcome: death or necrosis of part of the heart muscle.
There are a number of risk factors that predispose to infarction:
- Arterial hypertension (AHT).
- Family history of having suffered a heart attack at a young age.
The risk of suffering a heart attack is higher in men over 50 years of age, although the arrival of menopause equals this probability in women. However, there is a higher mortality rate due to heart attack in women than in men, not so much because of biological differences but because women tend to minimize the symptoms and take longer to consult a physician.
On the other hand, for a correct diagnosis of angina pectoris, an electrocardiogram and a stress test are performed to try to reproduce the symptoms and locate the artery causing the problem.
This test is complemented with a Doppler echocardiography to rule out structural cardiac pathology. Depending on the result, the need to perform other tests such as coronary angiography, cardio-MRI or angio-CT will be assessed in order to reach a diagnosis and establish a treatment plan appropriate to the patient’s characteristics and needs.