6 Things to Know About Angina

View as:|
1 of 6

What is angina?

Angina is a temporary discomfort or pain that happens when part of your heart muscle is temporarily not able to get enough blood and oxygen to meet its needs. It usually happens during physical activity or extreme emotion and goes away after a few minutes of rest.

What's the difference between angina and heart attack?

Angina is associated with only a temporary reduction in your heart's blood supply and if relieved, doesn't damage your heart muscle. A heart attack is caused by a complete loss of blood flow to part of your heart muscle, generally due to a blood clot suddenly and completely blocking an already narrowed coronary artery. A heart attack causes permanent damage to the affected areas of the heart.

What causes angina?

Angina is caused by coronary heart disease, which means when your arteries become too narrow, the blood supply to your heart muscle is reduced. Angina occurs when your heart has to work harder than usual to get enough blood to meet its needs. It may not happen all of the time because the blood supply to your heart muscle is usually able to keep up.

When does it occur?

Angina can affect people in different ways, and people can experience different symptoms. Some people feel it early in the morning after waking, and some may get it when they're resting. Many people tend to get it in cold weather, after a heavy meal, or physical activity.

What does it feel like?

The pain associated with angina usually feels like a tight, squeezing pain in the chest. It's usually felt in the center of your chest, but may spread to the back, shoulders, or arm. Some people only experience shortness of breath without chest pain, and some people may only experience an unpleasant sensation. Pain usually lasts for only 10 minutes and then it goes away.

How is angina treated?

Angina can be treated with medicine, lifestyle changes, and surgery. The most common medication used is called nitrate and they work by making the blood vessels in your body bigger. Other medicines include beta blockers, aspirin, calcium channel blockers, and statins.