Symptoms of chest pain can be scary, and they may have you wondering if it’s angina or a heart attack.
Chest pain caused by angina may feel similar to the chest pain associated with a heart attack, but the conditions are different.
In this blog, we’ll explore precisely what angina is, the difference between angina and heart attack, and signs to look out for.
What is Angina?
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that angina is a symptom – not a disease.
However, it’s almost always a sign that you have blocked arteries and heart disease.
Angina is a condition that can result in chest pain or discomfort that occurs when there is not enough blood flow to the heart. Plaque builds upon the inner walls of your arteries as a result of heart disease, causing them to narrow as it breaks off over time. This restricts blood flow through your coronary arteries, which are responsible for delivering oxygen-rich blood from your heart to other parts of your body, such as your brain and muscles.
When blood flow is restricted, oxygen-rich blood cannot get where it needs to go, which results in chest pain for people who experience angina symptoms frequently.
What is the Difference Between Angina and Heart Attack?
As mentioned, angina can be thought of as a symptom, whereas a heart attack is an actual medical emergency.
A heart attack is the result of a complete blockage in blood flow to the heart. This can happen when coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked by plaque buildup.
Angina, on the other hand, is different from a heart attack because it is actually caused by oxygen-starved tissue on your heart muscle – not a complete blockage like you see with a heart attack.
Though angina can usually be relieved with rest or medication, it’s still important to take it seriously, as these symptoms indicate that you are at risk of having a heart attack.
Do you know the difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest? Learn more.
Symptoms of Angina and Heart Attack
The symptoms of angina and heart attack can feel similar. Both can cause:
- Chest discomfort, tightness, burning, or heaviness
- Pain in other areas of the upper body, such as the arms, back, neck, or jaw
- Shortness of breath or feeling like you can’t breathe at all
Both angina and heart attack are more common in older adults. While angina can affect people of all ages, heart attack is more likely to affect people over age 65.
Angina can also cause patients to experience:
The American Heart Association suggests that individuals who have angina should call 911 if they experience any of these symptoms:
- Pain that is not relieved by rest or nitroglycerin pills
- Symptoms are getting worse despite treatment
- Pain that lasts longer than 20 minutes
Heart attack symptoms often involve:
If you experience symptoms of either condition, seek medical care immediately.
It’s important to remember that despite similar symptoms, angina and heart attack are different conditions.
Through maintaining a heart-healthy diet, not smoking, exercising regularly, and understanding your genetics, you can help prevent both angina and heart attack!
Another way to protect your heart is by having an AED. Get yours now!