Frequently asked questions
Click below for answers to frequently asked questions about angina.
What is angina?
Angina is discomfort or pain you feel in the chest or areas around it (arm, shoulder, back, neck, or jaw) when the heart is not getting enough oxygen.1,4 Angina is not a disease. It often is a symptom of a heart problem. The heart problem that most commonly leads to chronic angina is coronary heart disease (CHD).1 Click here to learn about angina.
What are coronary arteries?
What is coronary heart disease (CHD)?
In healthy coronary arteries, blood flows freely to bring oxygen to the heart. In coronary heart disease, these arteries become stiff and narrow. This means blood flow is lower. Less blood and oxygen get to the heart. With exercise or emotional stress, the heart works harder. It needs more oxygen. Lower blood flow can lead to angina. You could feel discomfort or pain in the chest, arm, shoulder, back, neck, or jaw. When angina has been present for months or years without much change, it is called chronic stable angina. It most often goes away with rest or nitroglycerin.1,2,4,5
What is the difference between coronary heart disease (CHD) and coronary artery disease (CAD)?
What triggers chronic angina?
What does angina feel like?
Angina symptoms are not the same for everyone. During an episode, most people feel pain or discomfort in their chest, arm, shoulder, back, neck, or jaw.1 Other people have different symptoms. Angina symptoms may include1,8:
- Pain or discomfort in the chest, arm, shoulder, back, neck, or jaw
- Feeling short of breath
- Feeling tired
- Feeling lightheaded
Click here to learn about angina.
What is the difference between angina and a heart attack?
An angina attack is not a heart attack. In angina, the heart does not get enough oxygen for a short time. The pain often goes away with rest or nitroglycerin.1 Angina does not usually cause lasting damage to the heart.1,9
A heart attack can happen if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked. Chest pain can be sudden and intense or start slowly, with mild pain. The pain will last more than a few minutes or will go away and come back. A heart attack can cause lasting damage to heart muscle.9,10
If you are having symptoms that do not go away with rest or nitroglycerin, it could be unstable angina, a more serious kind of angina that can lead to a heart attack. Patients with unstable angina should get emergency medical help right away.1,4
How is angina diagnosed?
To determine if your chest pain is angina, your cardiologist will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical and family history. Angina is usually a symptom of a heart problem, most often coronary heart disease (CHD). Your cardiologist may do tests to help tell how severe your heart condition is. Tests may include an electrocardiogram (EKG), treadmill exercise or other stress test, x-rays, blood tests, and imaging of the coronary arteries (angiogram).1
How is angina treated?
- Medicines for angina
- Lifestyle changes
- Opening a blocked artery and placing a small tube, or stent, in the artery to keep it open (angioplasty/percutaneous coronary intervention)
- Bypass surgery
- Cardiac rehabilitation
- Enhanced external counterpulsation therapy (EECP), a treatment that improves the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle; it involves placing cuffs on the legs and inflating and deflating in rhythm with the heartbeat
Your cardiologist may suggest one or more of these options, based on your symptoms and medical history. The goal in treating chronic angina is relief of angina symptoms and a return to normal physical activity.12 Click here to learn more about the treatments for angina.
Can angina treatment reduce my symptoms?
Can a person with angina exercise?
Always talk with your cardiologist before you start an exercise program. Ask your cardiologist about an exercise program that is right for you.