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What Is Angina?

Angina is a warning that the heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Medicines, certain medical procedures, and lifestyle changes can help control angina. Talk with your doctor 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 is not always painful, and it isn’t always felt in the chest. Angina might feel like this:

  • Discomfort, aching, tightness, or pressure that comes and goes. You may feel this in your chest, back, abdomen, arm, shoulder, neck, or jaw.

  • More tiredness than usual for no clear reason

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

  • Heartburn, indigestion, nausea, or sweating

Call 911 right away if any of your symptoms lasts for more than a few minutes. Or if they go away and come back. Or if they happen at rest and don't go away after taking nitroglycerin. You could be having a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction).

When does angina happen?

  • Angina usually happens during activity. It can also occur when you’re upset or after a large meal.

  • If angina starts occurring more often, lasts longer, or causes more discomfort, you may have unstable angina. It’s a sign that your heart problem may be getting worse.

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell art team.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 3/7/2014
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