Can momentary stress cause angina pectoris?

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Hello to you all. I have read and researched about angina pectoris before coming here to ask questions. But I need some further clarifications and I believe you would be able to help me here.

Say we have a 69 year old female with cardiac problems since a kid and diagnosed with hypertension/high blood pressure, than it is pretty common to "evolve" into angina pectoris. High blood pressure seems to be among the major causes/high risk factors along with prolonged psychological stress, high levels of cholesterol. Our subject - the 69 year old female had all this - high blood pressure, long term stress, high levels of cholesterol. My question here is a bit odd, but please be kind - I need to know if a single stressful occasion could cause angina pectoris to such person who was already predispositioned to the above-mentioned conditions. A few years ago, during an argument my mother splashed my aunt with hot coffee. The coffee was hot like very warm, but not burning hot. What my mother told me was that after being splashed with the coffee, my aunt leaned back and sat on the couch - did not faint or anything like this, but seemed shocked and not feeling good for a short time. But after half a minute or something stood up and started cleaning the coffee up, then went in the garden to do her her choirs, but was probably very angry and still very stressed. She later shared she wanted to do something in order to relieve the stress, anger and offence her heart was full of. Then she came back and went to bed where she staid for the rest of the day. She was feeling sick and staid in bed the whole second day as well. After weeks or a month aunt went for her regular appointment at her cardiologist and was diagnosed with angina pectoris. She has been relatively well since then , though I little older hence with some additional health problems, but moving, walking, going out, doing her house work. Her documents say angina pectoris - unclassified - the doctors have not bothered to determine whether it is stable or unstable, it is not her major issue with health and she has even achieved some good things like lowering her blood pressure, etc. The thing is my mother became obsessed whether she is guilty and to what extend about her angina pectoris. It is possible that back then aunt was not going each month for her regular medical appointment, so the angina might have occurred before their fight, but could be afterwards too. And if it as afterwards, do you think such single occasion could be the direct cause of the angina pectoris? Just like if you assault someone they could immediately have a heart attack, let's say? My mother feels guilty because she sees the coffee splashing equal to a physical harm and different then their frequent and severe verbal fights they had at that time. I know she did not to a good thing, but her guilty conscious is recently soaking all her life powers and it hurts me so bad! I am researching this with the hope to give her some facts so she finds some peace. Aunt does not care aboutthis,but my mother is depressed now, though she was not tkinging about it these eyars until a few months ago. So do you think this occasion could be equal to physical assault and harm to someone, or it is more like the stress cause by verbal fights? And do you think this could've been the last bit that led to angina pectoris?

Now, I was already advised in another forum on the very same question that the cause of angina is the plaques that are built for years, etc. - you guys know way better than me the explanation. I had read about those plaques of course, but by that time I didn't know if they could be the only cause. So this explanation left me relieved. Bun then I dug in a little more and the physician that was replying on my post compared heart attack with angina - he said that the mechanism of triggering both is the same and now this didn't sound very good to me. The physician meant that even in cases of heart attacks (strokes too) the conditions are already set and it is not the physical/psychological stress that causes them, stress is only a trigger and that the same goes for angina. However, if it is the same for angina, this sounds to me like even though my aunt had the plaques angina could have been avoided. And he said that some people have all the conditions for angina and heart attacks, but are just very lucky and get away without one. He inssisted it's not my mum's fault - if it wasn't the coffee, it would've been something else. But still this may have been the trigger, he said.

And in another forum they just told me - no way, man, angina is a condition caused by a gradual deterioration in the blood vessels which supply the heart. These changes do not suddenly occur but take years to develop.

So what's your take on my query? Like for example, what is the nature of the triggering process of angina, or there isn't really a moment of triggering... I am aware of what causes angina, so it's just the triggering I worry...

Thank you a lot in advance!

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18 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Boris,well as a guy that's had angina for many years in going to back up what's already been said and forget the coffee incident there is no way that would bring on angina attack,stress,worry will do it yes but not a one off accident so convince your mother she is totally not to blame.

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    • Posted

      Thank you, Peter!

      To be honest, the story is between me and my grandma - that's the text that I in the first forum and later modified. At first I was ashamed to share that I splashed my grandma with coffee...

      What is bugging me is that a doctor in another forum advised me that this thing that happened could be the trigger that brought the underlying problems and if it wasn't for it it would've been something else so there is no place for guilt. But it still sounds bad to me. Maybe it is my lack of medica understanding and knowledge, maybe it is my habit to fee guilty...

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  • Posted

    I doubt the coffee incident was anything to do with it.  It is years of build up, high bp, and stress. I am always stressed, but mine showed first just walking my dog!
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  • Posted

    Hi Boris Kay,

    Like the others here,  I have suffered unstable angina for years, but I have to disagree with them on this one, this makes for a very interesting case and I do believe it was a trigger for an angina attack, I would be leaning more towards the unstable angina with the person you speak about as emotional stress is a major factor in unstable angina as is a puff of cold wind to the face and cold weather.

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    • Posted

      I'm talking not about what causes the symptoms, but whether this occasion is a trigger for the condition to "appear" for the first time, to bring the underlying condtions that have been building up for years.

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    • Posted

      Well I answered your question quite plainly I think, yes it could well of set off an angina attack, or "trigger" as you put it. doesn't matter what word you use.....it may or may  not of been an underlying condition ,just like any condition it can rear it's ugly head up at anytime., some people can break at the first hint of stress, where as others . it take years, everybodies makup is different.

      Any emotional stress or even your original case of someone accidently upsetting coffee on someone else could "trigger " off any number of conditions. I'm having trouble here trying to convey plainly but I seem to be stuck this morning, so I will give you the same answer, Yes this incident could of triggered an angina attack in the elderly anything that upsets them could even give them  heart attack from pure fear or guilt. something to maybe think about is what triggers you to get mad, what is enough to upset you, your answers to these questions would be the triggers, if this all makes sense to you ?

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  • Posted

    Hello, i have unstable angina and am 43 years old. Yes i am afraid to say that any emotion or exertion can provoke an attack of angina no question. If you are unfortunate to have taken the condition full blown whether it is climbing the stairs, vacuuming the carpet, having an argument or spilling a cup of coffee will almost certainly trigger the symptoms. Life in the slow lane unfortunately, you're aware of the causes which is good, take all prescribed medication and take real good care of yourself.

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    • Posted

      Hi 🙋 Richard,it's interesting that you say that emotion could trigger an angina attack,there's been a lot of discussion on here mostly saying it wont,so I'm wondering if it affects different people different ways,emotion wouldn't affect me,exertion yes,won't be the 1st time I've climbed the stairs and ended up with chest pain,,so respect what you say fellow sufferer but I'm sure it must be down to the individual,keep well mate.

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    • Posted

      Hi peter,

      There are several types of angina,what you have described with your symptoms is stable angina, unstable is known to be the dangerous type, well all forms of angina is dangerous but unstable stands out a tad more, it occurs at rest mainly. If you would like clarification on emotional stress and unstable angina just look on any countries heart foundations websites, there are 3- 4 main triggers, emotional stress, cold weather, and even a puff of wind to the face.Also unstable angina  doesn't always respond to the nitrate  medications.

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    • Posted

      The fourth trigger can also be extreme heat, sorry I left that one out.
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    • Posted

      Thank you for your reply Samuels,glad to say I have been stable for nearly a year now the cold doesn't agree with me or if very hot,and as you rightly say GTN has no effect on unstable angina so if that happens it's a visit to AE to be sure it's nothing else,luckily so far we been ok but strange thing is I had an ECG and when the doctor came back she asked me when I had a heart attack,well I didn't know I had but she explained I could have one in my sleep and know nothing about it,makes you wonder if you're living on borrowed time sometimes.😊.

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    • Posted

      Hi, from what i can gather heart disease can be very different and complex for each individual and you cannot compare yourself with others, it's your angina and you manage it best you can. I had felt unwell for months and thought the pain in my left arm was muscular, it wasn't until the discomfort spread to my jaw and chest that i realised what the problem was and by which time it was too late for any kind of lifestyle change, given a slew of medication and that was it basically. It's caused in most cases by high cholestrol so a statin coupled with a beta blocker, ACE Inhibitor and blood thinner will usually do the trick, if not an interventional approach may be required.

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    • Posted

      Hi peter,

      I know exactly how you feel, I was similar, I wasn't feling well one day and had indigestion, the indigestion medication wouldn't even clear it up, I felt sick , chest pain on and off all day but wasn't really enough to worry about, my mother had said to me that I didn't look well, later that afternoon

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    • Posted

      I don't know what happened there, well anyrate as I was saying later that afternoon I ended up in emergency, ECG was normal but troponins came back positive, spent the next 3 days in hospital, I had what the medical profession call an NSTEMI and they had found some occlusions in the coronaries. If my memory serves me correctly you don't have to have plaqued arteries to get unstable angina, it's common in stable angina (blockages)

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  • Posted

    I think I understand where the OP is coming from as I've just been doing an online heart health course for interest and general awareness and was also unsure on the difference between causes and triggers!

    OP are you worried about if the incident could have actually caused your aunt/gran to develop angina whereas if it hadn't have happened she wouldn't have developed it at all and wouldn't have been diagnosed with it at her next appointment? I'm no expert but surely this isn't likely and the lady would have already had the condition albeit undiagnosed if it takes years/decades to develop? Like I said though I'm no expert but it seems like you're worrying excessively about it and causing yourself a lot of anxiety, maybe it would be worth going to speak to your own GP about your worries, talking always helps! And they should also be able to help to put your mind at rest about the angina also. Good luck!

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    • Posted

      Depends on what type of angina I believe, If there is no atherosclerosis, then it is possible of having Prinzmetal angina , MVD or what's called syndrome X there is also another condition called broken heart syndrome.

      Yes it maybe true a lot of doctors will say no this would / could not occur but then you will have just as many doctors saying ...yes this single event could quite well of bought the angina out in a person.

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    • Posted

      Like the OP had asked, it would hold the same as why do some people not have angina but can have  heart attacks with only a 50% blockage in one of their arteries.....Emotional stress / everyday stress cause us lots of unwanted grief
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