Pain in the chest is always cause for concern — but it can have different causes.
Is it indigestion? A heart attack? A pulled muscle?
Or is it angina? And what is angina, anyway?
What causes angina?
You probably think of your heart as an organ, but the heart is also a muscle.
Without the constant contracting and relaxing of that muscle, no blood flows through your body to carry oxygen to your tissues, organs and other muscles. And like all the other organs, muscles and tissues in your body, your heart needs oxygen.
If it doesn’t get the oxygen it needs, it has ways of letting you know. One such way is angina.
Symptoms of angina
There are different types of angina, and your symptoms can vary based on your gender.
Some common symptoms of angina include:
- Burning in the chest
- A feeling of fullness, pressure or squeezing in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, especially in the chest, arms, neck, jaw or back
Symptoms may last from three to 30 minutes. They may ease off with rest or when you take medication.
As men and women experience different heart attack symptoms, they also may experience different symptoms for angina. Women with angina may experience symptoms that wouldn’t necessarily make you think the pain is related to the heart, because it occurs in the back, stomach, jaw or neck.
What’s the difference between angina and a heart attack?
As we said, any chest pain or heart attack symptoms should be taken seriously. If you’ve never had these symptoms before, get medical treatment right away.
The symptoms are similar because the cause is similar: the heart isn’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood.
A heart attack, however, can lead to disability and death; angina is a condition people live with for years and can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
Angina often happens:
- Following a large meal
- During exercise or physical exertion
- In cold temperatures
- When you’re stressed or emotional
On the other hand, a heart attack can come out of the blue. The symptoms of a heart attack may not include only chest discomfort, but nausea, sweating, weakness or exhaustion.
How to prevent angina
Healthy heart habits can relieve or prevent angina. These include:
- Quitting tobacco
- Making exercise part of your daily routine
- Keeping a health body weight
- Limiting saturated fats, trans fats, salt and sugar
- Including more healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, into your diet.
- Limiting and managing stress
You can discuss other heart-healthy measures and tests you may need with your medical provider.
Treatments for angina
Once your medical provider has diagnosed with angina, they have several treatment options to help you control your symptoms.
One of the most widely used treatments is a medication called nitroglycerin, or nitro. Nitro stimulates your heart, pushing more blood through the coronary arteries and pushing more blood and oxygen to your heart. This medication should always be carried with you to treat episodes of angina.
Other medications may also be used, like anti-platelet medication that reduces blood clotting, beta blockers that slow your heart and calcium channel blockers (CCBs) that relax and widen the blood vessels.
Your provider may also suggest two other treatments available through Tanner Heart Care:
Again, if you experience any symptoms of a heart attack — even if you’ve been diagnosed with angina and the medications do not relieve the symptoms — call 911 right away.
If you need specialized care for angina or any other heart concerns, our team at Tanner Heart & Vascular Specialists is here to help. We have offices in Carrollton, Villa Rica, Bremen and Wedowee. ??