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What Is Angina?

Angina is a warning that your heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood and is at risk for damage. Medicines, certain medical procedures, and lifestyle changes can help control angina. Talk with your healthcare provider about how to prevent angina and what to do if you get it.

Man holding hand to chest and looking distressed.

How does angina feel?

Angina is often described as chest pain, but this can be misleading. Angina is not always painful, and it isn’t always felt in the chest. Angina might feel like:

  • Discomfort, aching, tightness, or pressure that comes and goes. You may feel this in your chest, back, abdomen, arm, shoulder, neck, or jaw.

  • Tiredness that gets worse or you have more tiredness than usual for no clear reason

  • Shortness of breath while doing something that used to be easy

  • Heartburn, indigestion, nausea, or sweating

Call 911 right away if any of your symptoms lasts for more than a few minutes. Or if they go away and come back. Or if they happen at rest and don't go away after taking nitroglycerin. Or if they continue to get worse. You could be having a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction).

When does angina happen?

  • Angina usually happens during activity. It can also occur when you’re upset or after a large meal. Sometimes angina can happen when the weather is too hot or too cold. All of these things can put more stress on your body and your heart.

  • You may have unstable angina if angina starts occurring more often, lasts longer, happens even when you are resting, or causes more discomfort. It’s a sign that your heart problem may be getting worse. You need to call your healthcare provider right away.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gandelman, Glenn, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Snyder, Mandy, APRN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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