Key Points about Angina

  • Angina is a chest pain that occurs when the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen-rich blood.
  • It is often caused by coronary artery disease.
  • General symptoms of angina may include chest pain, trouble breathing, nausea and sweating.
  • Symptoms and treatment may vary depending on your gender, and whether your angina is stable or unstable.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately if you are experiencing severe chest pain.
Common related conditions
Heart (Cardiovascular) Disease Pericarditis Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Overview

Angina is a form of chest pain that occurs when blood flow to the heart is impaired, leading to oxygen deprivation in the heart muscle. In addition to chest pain, this oxygen deprivation can cause symptoms such as sweating, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and trouble breathing.

Angina can be stable or unstable. Treatment for angina will vary depending upon your form of the condition. Your doctor can work with you to decide upon the best course of treatment for your angina.

The most common complication from angina is a heart attack. If you have sudden chest pain, seek immediate emergency medical attention.

Angina causes

Angina occurs when blood flow to the heart is impaired, causing the heart muscle to be deprived of oxygen. This deprivation of oxygen-rich blood leads to symptoms of angina.

Impaired blood flow to the heart is often caused by coronary artery disease, where your arteries become narrower.

There are two main types of angina—stable angina and unstable angina. Stable angina can be triggered by:

  • Exercise or physical activity
  • Stress
  • A cold climate
  • Smoking
  • Large meals

Unstable angina can be caused by:

  • Blood clots in the blood vessels of the heart
  • Fatty deposits in blood vessels

Angina risk factors

You may be at an increased risk of developing angina if you:

  • Smoke tobacco
  • Have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Have diabetes
  • Have family members with heart disease
  • Are a woman over age 55
  • Are a man over age 45
  • Have high stress levels
  • Are overweight
  • Do not get adequate exercise

Angina symptoms

General symptoms of angina may include:

  • Chest pain that may feel like pressure, burning or squeezing
  • Pain that extends to your neck, jaw, or arms
  • Trouble breathing
  • Feeling nauseous or dizzy
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating

You may have stable angina if your chest pain:

  • Lasts for less than five minutes
  • Occurs while exercising or exerting yourself
  • Goes away with rest or with angina medication
  • Is similar to pain you have experienced before

You may have unstable angina if your chest pain:

  • Develops at any time, even when you are resting
  • Occurs suddenly and unexpectedly
  • Lasts for over 30 minutes
  • Has a changing pattern
  • Does not resolve after using angina medication

Unstable angina is a medical emergency and required immediate medical attention.

Women with angina are more likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the neck, back, jaw or abdomen
  • Chest pain that feels like a stabbing sensation

Angina complications

It is important to treat and manage angina, as it can lead to a heart attack.

Angina prevention

To lower your risk of developing angina:

  • Stop smoking
  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight
  • Manage the amount of stress in your life
  • Avoid drinking more than one drink daily for women, and two drinks daily for men
  • Get regular, moderate physical activity, as directed by your doctor
  • Manage and treat any existing chronic conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure

Angina diagnosis

When diagnosing angina, your doctor will assess whether it is unstable or stable, by reviewing your symptoms and conducting a physical examination.

Angina treatment

Angina can be treated with:

  • Lifestyle modifications, such as losing weight, implementing a healthier diet, and quitting smoking
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as statins, aspirin, nitrates, and beta blockers
  • Heart procedures, such as stenting, angioplasty, or coronary artery bypass surgery

When to seek care

Seek immediate medical care if you ever experience sudden chest pain.

Next Steps

Your doctor can help set up a plan to manage and treat your stable angina.