Angina is chest pain or discomfort that occurs when an area of your heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood.
Angina itself isn't a disease. Rather, it's a symptom of an underlying heart problem. Angina is usually a symptom of coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease.
There are three types of angina - stable, unstable, and variant (Prinzmetal's). Knowing how the types are different is important. This is because they have different symptoms and require different treatment.
Stable angina is the most common type. It occurs when the heart is working harder than usual. Stable angina has a regular pattern. If you know you have stable angina, you can learn to recognize the pattern and predict when the pain will occur. Pain usually goes away in a few minutes after you rest or take your angina medicine. Stable angina isn't a heart attack, but it makes a heart attack more likely in the future. Unstable angina does not follow a pattern. It can occur with or without physical exertion and isn't relieved by rest or medicine.
Unstable angina is very dangerous and needs emergency treatment. It's a sign that a heart attack may happen soon.
Variant (Prinzmetal's) angina is rare. It usually occurs while you're at rest. The pain can be severe. It usually happens between midnight and early morning. This type of angina is relieved by medicine.
Signs & Symptoms
Angina may feel like pressure or squeezing in your chest. It may feel like indigestion. Other signs and symptoms include:
- Pain in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back
- Sweating, light-headedness, or weakness also may occur
Treatments for angina include lifestyle changes, medicines, medical procedures, and cardiac rehabilitation. Lifestyle changes include following a healthy eating plan, quitting smoking, being physically active, losing weight, and learning how to handle stress and relax. You can prevent or lower your risk for angina and CAD by making lifestyle changes and treating related conditions.
If you have angina, it's important to know the pattern of your angina, what medicines you take (keep a list) and how often you should take then, how to control your angina, and the limits on your physical activity. You should know how and when to seek medical help.
Resources We Recommend:
Patient Handout on Angina
Patient Education Video on Angina in Women
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