Angina vs. Myocardial Infarction

Instructor: Alexandra Carpenter
The heart is the pump of the body and is essential for life. Unfortunately the pump can be damaged. In this lesson we will learn about angina and myocardial infarctions.

The Heart

The human heart is a pump that works nonstop to move blood through our body. One could argue that it is the hardest working organ of the body since it never rests. In fact, the heart beats an average of 100,000 times a day. It pumps about five quarts of blood every minute through our vascular system that is over 60,000 miles in length. That might make you tired just thinking about it, but it also makes you realize how important heart health really is.


Angina is the medical term for chest pain. The heart is not only the pump for the blood of our body but is also a muscle. Just like all muscles in the body it requires blood to provide oxygen and nutrients to maintain the health and function of the muscle.

The coronary arteries are the arteries that provide blood to the heart muscle. If the arteries are narrowed, the heart muscle is at risk for not receiving enough blood. Atherosclerosis is plaque build-up that causes narrowing in the arteries.

At rest, the heart muscle requires less oxygen and nutrients than with activity. Think of your car. When driving at a slow rate, it requires less gas to fuel it. But when the car is performing at high speeds, it requires increased gas to fuel it. The same applies to your heart.

Therefore, when a person has atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries, they may not experience any problems when at rest. But when the person becomes active, causing the heart to work harder, there is not enough blood flow to keep up with the increased workload. When a muscle doesn't receive enough oxygen and nutrients, it causes pain in that muscle. It can also cause other symptoms such as feeling lightheaded and short of breath. This is why angina occurs and can indicate that a more serious event may occur.

Myocardial Infarction

If the narrowed arteries that feed the heart muscle become blocked or severely narrowed, it is called a myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack. The blockage is often due to a blood clot. When the heart muscle doesn't receive oxygen and nutrient rich blood, it results in cell damage and death in the heart. This results in permanent damage to the heart muscle.

Time is important when experiencing a heart attack. The longer the blockage occurs, the more damage that can be done.

It is recommended to take aspirin if experiencing signs and symptoms of a heart attack. The aspirin works to prevent any further clotting. In the emergency room, they will administer oxygen. They may also administer nitroglycerin, which dilates the blood vessels and allows increased blood flow to the heart. Morphine is used for pain. It may be necessary to have a stent placed to open up the artery and resume normal blood perfusion.

Lesson Summary

The heart is the amazing pump of our body that beats continuously for our entire life. Although the heart is responsible to pump our blood to feed all the parts of our body, it is also like any other muscle and requires its own blood supply to receive oxygen and nutrients.

The coronary arteries are the arteries that deliver oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the heart muscle. These arteries may become narrowed due to atherosclerosis, which is plaque buildup.

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