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Angina (Chest Pain) FAQs

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What factors increase the risk for angina?

Factors that increase the risk for angina are similar to those that increase the risk for heart disease. These include: 

 

What are the symptoms of angina?

The chest pain caused by angina is often described as:

  • Chest pain or discomfort that feels like pressure, burning, tightness, squeezing or a crushing sensation in the chest
  • Some people describe the pain as feeling like a heavy weight has been placed on their chest, or that their chest is in a vise
  • Pain normally starts behind the breastbone
  • Sometimes there is accompanying pain in neck, shoulders or shoulder blades, arms, upper back or jaw
  • May feel like indigestion

 Other angina symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating

Angina symptoms can vary depending on the type of angina. In addition, women and men can experience different types of angina symptoms. If you experience new or changing chest pain, contact your doctor right away or seek emergency medical attention. New or different symptoms may signal that your chest pain has become more dangerous (such as changing from stable to unstable angina). Or it could signal a heart attack. Learn more about heart attack symptoms. Remember, if you think you are experiencing a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

 

Can the symptoms of angina be different in women than in men?

Yes, women can experience different angina symptoms than the classic angina symptoms that men typically experience. For example, a woman may have chest pain that feels like a stabbing, pulsating or sharp pain rather than the more typical squeezing or crushing pressure. Women are also more likely to experience symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath and abdominal pain. These differences may lead to delays in seeking treatment.

 

How common is angina?

About 7 million people in the United States suffer from angina (stable angina and unstable angina) and an estimated 400,000 new cases of stable angina are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Women are slightly more likely than men to suffer from stable angina.

More than 1.2 million new and recurring heart attacks happen every year in the U.S. More than one-third of people who suffer a heart attack will die from it.

 

Is angina always a sign of heart disease?

Angina is often, but not always, a sign of heart disease. A heart valve problem called aortic valve stenosis causes decreased blood flow to the heart that can also cause angina.

Also people with severe anemia can have angina since their blood does not carry enough oxygen. And people with thickened heart muscles can have angina. Thicker the heart muscles need more oxygen; when they don't get enough oxygen, it can lead to angina.

 

Is all chest pain angina?

No, chest pain can be caused by many conditions that are not related to angina or heart disease, such as:

Learn more about common conditions that can cause chest pain.

 

How is angina treated?

The main goal in angina treatment is to reduce or eliminate the risk of heart attack by treating the underlying heart problem. Treatment also focuses on reducing pain and discomfort and the frequency of angina attacks.

If your angina symptoms are mild and not getting worse, lifestyle changes and medication may be all you need to control angina. If these measures aren't enough, surgery, cardiac rehabilitation or other measures may be needed.

Learn more about treatment options for angina.

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