syndrome happens when the heart is not getting enough blood. It is an emergency.
unstable angina and
coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to
heart muscle. If these arteries are narrowed or blocked, the heart does not get
enough oxygen. This can cause angina or a heart attack.
angina happens when blood flow to the heart is suddenly slowed by narrowed coronary
arteries. Or small blood clots form in the coronary arteries and slow blood flow.
Typically, there is no damage to the heart muscle.
It often happens when you are at rest. You may have had
stable angina before. You knew when to expect
your symptoms, such as when you exercised. Stable angina usually goes away
when you rest or take your angina medicine. But the symptoms of unstable angina
not go away with rest or medicine. It may get worse or happen at times that it
didn't before. Unstable angina symptoms may mean that you are having a heart attack.
heart attack means a coronary artery
has been blocked and the heart has been damaged. Without blood flow and oxygen,
part of the heart starts to die.
Any type of acute coronary syndrome
is very serious and
needs to be treated right away.
acute coronary syndrome?
coronary syndrome happens because blood flow has slowed or stopped in the arteries
blood to the heart. Acute coronary syndrome is typically caused by coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease,
also called heart disease,
is caused by atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Atherosclerosis causes a substance called plaque to build up in the coronary arteries.
Plaque causes angina by narrowing the
arteries. The narrowing limits blood flow to the heart muscle. A heart attack
happens when blood flow is completely blocked.
are the symptoms?
or other emergency services immediately if you have symptoms of acute coronary
syndrome. These may include:
Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling
in the chest.
Shortness of breath.
Nausea or vomiting.
pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or
both shoulders or arms.
Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
or irregular heartbeat.
After you call
911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose
aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
How is acute coronary syndrome diagnosed?
will give you a physical exam and ask about your symptoms and past health. He
or she also will ask about your family's health. You will have several tests to
find out what is causing your symptoms.
electrocardiogram can show whether you have
have had a heart attack. This test measures the electrical signals that control
your heart's rhythm. Small pads or patches will be taped to your chest and other
your body. They connect to a machine that traces the signals onto paper. The
doctor will look for certain changes on the graph to see if your heart is not
getting enough blood or if you are having a heart attack.
test will look for a rise in cardiac enzymes. The heart releases these
substances when it is damaged.
In some cases, you might have a
test called a cardiac perfusion scan to see if your heart is getting enough
blood. It also can be used to check for areas of damage after a heart
How is it treated?
If you call
911, treatment will start in the ambulance
with aspirin and other medicines.
In the hospital, the doctor will
work right away to return blood flow to your heart. You may get medicines to break
up and prevent blood clots. You may get nitroglycerin
and other medicines that make your arteries wider. This helps improve blood flow
and relieve symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure. You also may get pain medicine
Your test results will help your doctor decide about more treatment.
You might have angioplasty or bypass surgery to improve blood flow to your
After you get out of the
hospital, you will continue to take medicines that lower your risk of a heart attack. Medicine may include beta-blockers, aspirin
or other medicines to prevent blood clots, blood pressure medicine, and cholesterol
lifestyle changes also lower your chance of having a heart attack. Quitting
smoking, eating heart-healthy foods, getting regular
exercise, and staying at a healthy weight are important steps you can take.
your doctor has not set you up with a
cardiac rehab program, talk to him or her about whether that
is right for you. In cardiac rehab, you will get education and support that help
you make new, healthy habits,
such as eating healthy food and getting more exercise.
Can acute coronary syndrome be prevented?
A heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart disease, which can lead to acute
coronary syndrome. If you already have heart disease, a heart-healthy lifestyle along
with medicine can help prevent a heart attack.
Eat a heart-healthy diet that has lots of fruit,
vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
Stay at a healthy
weight. Lose weight if you need to.
Be active. Your doctor can suggest
a safe level of exercise for you.
Manage other health
problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
your stress level. Stress can damage your heart.
Amsterdam EA, et al.
(2014). 2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the management of patients with non-ST-elevation
acute coronary syndromes. Circulation, 130(25): e344-e426. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000134.
Accessed October 24, 2014.
Kim MC, et al. (2011). Definitions of acute coronary
syndromes. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's the Heart, 13th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1287-1295.
New York: McGraw-Hill.
O'Connor RE, et al. (2010). Acute coronary syndromes:
2010 American Heart Association guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency
cardiovascular care. Circulation, 122(18): S787-S817.
Thygesen K, et al. (2012).
Third universal definition of myocardial infarction. Circulation, 126(16): 2020-2035.
Also available online: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/126/16/2020.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary
Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology,
Electrophysiology E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal
Medicine Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Kathleen
Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical
ReviewerGeorge Philippides, MD - Cardiology
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this