What Is Angina?

Angina is a warning sign that your heart muscle isn't 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 isn't always painful, and it isn’t always felt in the chest. Angina might feel like:

  • Discomfort, an aching, sharp, dull, or burning sensation, tightness or squeezing, or pressure that comes and goes. You may feel it in your chest, back, belly (abdomen), arm, shoulder, neck, or jaw.

  • Severe tiredness (fatigue) that gets worse, or feeling more tired than normal for no clear reason

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

  • Heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach (nausea), rapid heart rate, or sweating

  • Feeling lightheaded or fainting

Call 911

Call 911 right away if any of your symptoms:

  • Lasts more than a few minutes

  • Goes away and comes back

  • Happens at rest and doesn't go away after taking nitroglycerin as prescribed by your healthcare provider

  • Keeps getting worse


You could be having a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction). Don't drive to the hospital yourself or have someone else drive you.

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're resting, sleeping or doing little physical activity

    • 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: Callie Tayrien RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2021
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.