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Getting to Understand Angina

Getting to Understand Angina

Angina is generally classified by pain in your chest which is caused by a reduced flow of blood to your heart. Whilst the condition is not life threatening in the majority of cases, it could be a warning sign that you may have a more serious underlying condition which is causing issues and symptoms. This could lead to problems such as a stroke or heart attack.


The most obvious and frequent symptom is a pain in the chest. This chest pain is usually identified by: - A tight, dull or heavy feeling in the chest which may spread to your arms, neck, jaw or back. - A pain that stops within a few minutes of being at resting rate. - The accompaniment of other symptoms such as feeling sick or breathless. - Being triggered by physical stress or exertion.

What causes angina?

The condition is usually caused by coronary heart disease. When the arteries that supply your heart muscle with blood and oxygen become narrowed, the blood supply to your heart muscle is restricted.

Symptoms are often brought on by physical activity, an emotional upset, cold weather or after a meal. The episodes usually subside after a few minutes.

Other causes

The specific cause will usually depend on what form of the condition you have. Variant angina tends to be caused by spasms in your coronary artery - which supplies your heart with blood and oxygen. Microvascular angina, on the other hand, tends to occur when you push yourself too hard or become emotional and upset. With this form, you will usually find that your arteries appear normal, with no sign of fatty-build up - the usual cause of the condition.

What to do if you have symptoms of an attack

If you haven't yet been diagnosed and think you are having an attack, stop what you're doing immediately. You should call for an ambulance if your symptoms don't subside after a few minutes as there could be a risk that you're having a heart attack. If the symptoms do ease, make sure you book an emergency appointment with your doctor to get checked out as soon as possible.

If you have aspirin to hand, try chewing on this while you wait for an ambulance as this can help.

If you have already been diagnosed and prescribed medication, make sure you take this as soon as you notice an attack happening. If this doesn't ease your symptoms after five minutes, take another dose. If you are still suffering symptoms after a further five minutes, call an ambulance.

To live a long and healthy life, it’s important to take good care of your heart and manage any cardiac conditions you may have effectively. If you feel you may have an undiagnosed heart condition, or would like more information on managing a condition, visit our cardiology department.