Heart and circulatory system

What Is Angina and How Can We Prevent It?

Find out the symptoms of angina and learn how to identify them

By Pan-American Life
Most people describe angina as an intense pressure or weight on your chest. This type of pain is uncommon and tends to be confused with other discomfort in the area, such as indigestion. Here, we’ll help you learn how to identify angina by teaching you its symptoms and different types.

Angina, also known as “angina pectoris,” is a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. Usually, it’s described as pressure, tightness, heaviness, or pain in the chest. Experts say that it is a symptom of coronary artery disease.

When the heart muscle doesn’t receive enough oxygen, it can cause different symptoms. Some of the most common ones are pain or discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw, shoulders, arms, and pain; nausea; increased sweating; tiredness; and dizziness.
What Is Angina and How Can We Prevent It? -

The reduced blood flow to the heart that results in angina is usually caused by coronary artery disease. Fatty deposits called plaque can build up due to the presence of “bad” cholesterol, causing the arteries to narrow. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. There are different types of angina:

Stable angina

This type of angina occurs when the heart is forced to work harder, such as when you exercise, carry things, or climb stairs. Specialists say that it can usually be predicted and the pain it causes is similar to that of other conditions. Stable angina tends not to last long (5 minutes at most) and goes away more quickly if you rest or take your prescribed medication.

Unstable angina

This type is a modification of the normal pattern of angina. It occurs unexpectedly, even when you are resting. Unlike stable angina, it can last up to 30 minutes and doesn’t necessarily go away with rest or medication. In some cases, this type of angina can be a sign of heart attack.

What Is Angina and How Can We Prevent It? - In women

In women

Symptoms of angina in women can be different from those in men. Besides chest pain, women might experience pain in the abdomen, back, neck and jaw; shortness of breath; and nausea. These differences in symptoms might cause a delay in seeking treatment.

Risk factors

Some of the main risk factors of angina are advanced age; family history; diabetes; high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides; excessive alcohol and tobacco use; being overweight or obese; stress; being sedentary; and eating a diet high in refined or processed foods and low in fruits, vegetables, and grains.

What Is Angina and How Can We Prevent It? -

Consult your doctor if you experience any symptoms. To diagnose angina, your doctor might perform an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, stress test, chest x-ray, heart MRI, or blood test, or measure your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. This can help your doctor learn more about your situation and determine the best treatment for you.


Health care professionals may prescribe medications such as vasodilators, calcium channel blockers (which reduce the narrowing of the arteries), or beta blockers (which reduce the heart’s oxygen requirements). In extreme cases, they might resort to surgery, such as bypass or coronary angioplasty.


Doctors maintain that the onset of angina can be prevented. This can be achieved by quitting or reducing smoking (if you smoke); having regular checkups for other conditions, such as heart pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and stress levels; and eating a healthy diet (the Mediterranean and DASH diets are most often recommended).

Consult your doctor about what types of activities might cause angina, and which ones are not harmful and can help you combat sedentariness. As long as your doctor approves, you can exercise up to 3 times a week—if possible, with moderate-intensity activities like walking, stretching, or yoga.


National Library of Medicine; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Mayo Clinic; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.