Angina is a type of chest pain or discomfort caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscle. Angina is a symptom of coronary artery disease. When your heart muscle (myocardium) doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood, you may have chest pain. Angina is typically described as squeezing, pressure, heaviness, tightness or pain in your chest. Many people with angina say it feels like someone is standing on their chest.
Angina can be hard to distinguish from other types of chest pain, such as the pain or discomfort of indigestion. If you have unexplained chest pain, seek medical attention right away.
Symptoms: Chest pain and chest discomfort are the main symptoms or characteristics of angina. Nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, sweating or dizziness are other symptoms that may accompany angina.
Characteristics of angina
The chest pain and discomfort common with angina may be described as pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. Some people with angina symptoms describe angina as feeling like a vise is squeezing their chest, or feeling like a heavy weight has been placed on their chest. This pressure can extend to the arm, especially the left arm, neck, jaw, shoulder or back.
The severity, duration and type of angina can vary. It's important to recognize if you have new or changing chest pain. New or different symptoms may signal a more dangerous form of angina (unstable angina) or a heart attack.
Having coronary artery disease increases your risk of angina. If you've had a heart attack, this also increases your risk. Unstable angina is more common in older adults. The following risk factors increase your risk of coronary artery disease and angina:
- Tobacco smoke
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels
- Lack of physical activity