Angina is chest pain arising from the heart muscle when it does not get enough oxygen. The most common reason for angina is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). CAD happens when plaque, which is made of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other body substances, builds up in the blood vessels that deliver oxygen to the heart. The build-up of plaque causes your blood vessels to become narrower and less oxygen is delivered to your heart.
Angina may occur during everyday activities, and the main symptom of angina is chest pain. The pain may spread to your shoulders, arms, neck or jaw. Other symptoms may include indigestion, nausea, feeling tired and breathing difficulties.
The two common types of angina are stable angina and unstable angina.
Characteristics of stable angina:
- Usually due to the build-up of plaque in the blood vessels
- Symptoms are often predictable
- Symptoms of angina only occur with a certain level of physical activity or stress
- Symptoms will go away when the person rest or slow down the physical activity
Characteristics of unstable angina:
- Usually due to plaque breaking off and blocking the blood vessel
- Sudden very bad chest pain or a chest pain that occurs more often, is worse than normal and lasts for a longer period of time, even when you are resting
- Symptoms of unstable angina are usually not predictable
When to see a doctor
- Sudden very bad chest pain even when you are resting
- Chest pain lasting for more than 15 minutes even after using medicines
- Chest pain that is worse than normal
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Difficulty breathing
You can prevent angina by
- Quitting smoking and avoiding second hand smoke
- Keeping a healthy weight
- Controlling and treating medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol
- Relaxing and learning how to handle stress
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet that is high in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, lean meat and fish
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol
Updated in Nov 2018
This article does not take the place of talking to your doctor or pharmacist. People with special health needs such as babies, children below 12 year old, elderly and pregnant ladies should see a doctor instead of self-treatment. Always read the instructions and warnings on the package before taking any medicine.