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A cardiologist holds a stethoscope to check her patient's heart rate and rhythm.

What is angina?

Often a symptom of coronary artery disease, angina is a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. It can be difficult to distinguish angina from other forms of chest pain. So, if you are experiencing unexplained chest pain, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

What are the symptoms of angina?

  • Chest pain that feels like burning, fullness, pressure, or squeezing
  • Pain in the arms, neck, jaw, shoulders, or back
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating

What are the causes of angina?

Angina is caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscle. The most common cause of restricted blood flow is coronary artery disease. During times of rest, the heart may still be able to work with reduced blood flow. However, when the demand for oxygen is up, it can result in angina.

Are there different types of angina?

  • Stable angina is the most common form of the condition. It usually occurs during activity and goes away with rest or medication.
  • Unstable angina occurs at rest and can be unpredictable. Pain doesn’t go away with medication and often requires emergency treatment.
  • Variant angina, or Prinzmetal angina, isn’t caused by coronary artery disease but rather a spasm of the heart’s arteries restricting blood flow. The pain can be relieved with medication.
  • Refractory angina occurs in frequent episodes despite medication and lifestyle changes.

What are the risk factors for angina?

  • Aging. Angina is most common in those over the age of 60.
  • Family history. A person is more likely to have angina if their parents or siblings have or had heart disease.
  • Diabetes. Increasing the risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes can lead to angina or heart attacks.
  • Certain medications. Drugs that tighten blood vessels, like migraine medication, may cause variant angina.
  • Other conditions. Other cardiovascular conditions, like hypertension and high cholesterol, can cause damage to the heart’s arteries.
  • Cold temperatures. Exposure to colder weather can lead to variant angina.

How do I prevent angina?

  • Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage other health conditions related to heart disease
  • Reduce stress
  • Get recommended vaccines to avoid heart complications

How do you treat angina?

The following list is the one a cardiologist would use to help improve symptoms of angina.

If you are having a heart attack, which happens when parts of the heart do not receive enough blood flow, you may notice some of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain. Pain in the center or left side of the chest is one of the most common signs of a heart attack. You may feel a tightness, fullness, or squeezing sensation that can last for several minutes.
  • Discomfort in the upper body. This can include pain in the arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, back, and stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. While this symptom usually accompanies chest pain, it can occur before the discomfort starts.
  • Lightheadedness. In combination with other symptoms, feeling as though you are about to pass out is a common indicator of a heart attack.
  • Heart palpitations. You may begin to feel irregular or skipping heartbeats.

Heart attack symptoms can happen on and off or continuously over the course of a few minutes or a few hours. Chances are, if you have been experiencing chest pain for several days or weeks, it is not related to a heart attack.

If you see somebody having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. If they are conscious, have them chew and swallow an aspirin, which helps prevent blood clots. If they lose consciousness, administer CPR or follow the instructions on an automated external defibrillator (AED) if one is immediately available.

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