Acute Coronary Syndrome

(ACS; Unstable Angina)

Definition

Acute coronary syndrome (ACS) is a set of features related to poor blood flow to the heart muscle that leads to a heart attack. This results in chest pain or angina pectoris. ACS is a serious, life-threatening condition. If you think you have ACS, seek emergency medical treatment.

Causes

ACS is caused by a sudden blockage of the coronary arteries. These blood vessels carry blood to the heart muscle. The blood flow to the heart muscle is either greatly reduced or completely blocked. This leads to heart muscle damage or death from a heart attack. The narrowing most often happens from years of plaque build-up in an artery. This is called atherosclerosis. Blood clots may often cause of the narrowing arteries.
Coronary Artery
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Risk Factors

ACS is more common in men over 45 and women over 55 years old.Factors that increase your risk of developing ACS include:
  • A family history of heart disease
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol, especially high LDL ("bad") cholesterol, high triglycerides, and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Inactivity
  • Having angina, a previous heart attack, or other types of coronary artery disease

Symptoms

ACS is serious. It requires emergency medical treatment. Contact your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
  • Chest pain, pressure, tightness, burning, or other discomfort that may last a few minutes, go away, and then come back
  • Pain that lasts 30 minutes or longer
  • Pain that occurs after physical exertion, emotional stress, or eating a large meal
  • Pain that occurs at rest, while sleeping, or with little exertion
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, shoulders, the back, the neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath combined with chest pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating

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