Angina Vs Heart Attack: How to Differentiate?

Angina is a medical condition characterized by severe chest pain. Many people tend to interpret
angina as a heart attack. But there are some significant differences between the two. Here is all
you need to know about angina and how to differentiate it from a heart attack. Let’s begin!

Q. What is Angina?

A. Angina can be defined as a condition where a person experiences severe pain in the chest,
often also spreading to the shoulders, arms, and neck.’ It is said to occur due to an inadequate
blood supply to the heart. This will lead to your heart beating faster and harder to gain more
blood, causing you noticeable pain. Angina isn’t a disease. It’s a symptom and a warning sign of
heart disease.

Q. What does Angina feel like?

A. Most people with angina reported having chest pain or pressure. Or they felt a squeezing
sensation or a tightness in their chest. Some also say it feels like indigestion. Sometimes, the
exact place of pain cannot be located. You will usually feel discomfort beginning behind your
breastbone. This pain may spread to other parts of your upper body, including your neck, jaw,
shoulders, arms, back, or belly.

Lack of oxygen to your heart can cause other symptoms, known as “angina equivalents.” You don’t feel these symptoms in your chest. They include:

  • Sweating a lot
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting

Q. How is angina different from a heart attack?

A. Angina is different from a heart attack. They may seem to be similar but is significantly different.
Here are some important points to determine the difference –

  • Angina and a heart attack are both caused by coronary artery disease. But angina isn’t
    permanent. It won’t cause irreversible damage to your heart. But a heart attack will.
  • Angina signals a temporary reduction in blood flow to your heart. While a heart
    attack causes a longer reduction in blood flow. During a heart attack, the heart muscle
    begins to die partially.
  • Rest or medication (nitroglycerin) can help relieve stable angina within a few minutes.
    However, if you have a heart attack, rest or medication won’t be of any help.
  • Stable angina doesn’t create an emergency unless your pain suddenly gets worse or
    doesn’t go away with rest or medication. A heart attack is a medical emergency that
    needs immediate medical attention. You can’t do anything on your own to make it better.

Q. What are the different types of Angina?

A. There are four types of angina. They are –

  • Stable angina – is the most common form of angina, which usually happens during
    activity and can be lessened by rest and medication. The pain that comes on when
    you’re walking uphill or in the cold weather may be angina.
    Stable angina pain is predictable and is usually like chest pain that typically lasts five
    minutes or less.
  • Unstable angina – Unstable angina is unpredictable and occurs at rest. It is a medical
    emergency. It will occur with less physical effort, is typically severe, and lasts longer
    than stable angina. It may last 20 minutes or longer. The pain doesn’t go away with rest
    or medications. If the blood flow doesn’t improve, the heart is critically deprived of
    oxygen, and a heart attack occurs. Unstable angina is dangerous and requires
    emergency treatment.
  • Variant angina (Prinzmetal angina) – Variant angina isn’t caused due to coronary
    artery disease. It occurs by a spasm in the heart’s arteries that temporarily reduces
    blood flow. The main symptom of variant angina is severe chest pain. It most often
    occurs in cycles, generally when at rest and in the middle of the night. The pain may be
    relieved by angina medication.
  • Refractory angina – In this type of angina, the pains are frequent despite a combination
    of medications and lifestyle changes.

Q. How is angina treated?

A. Angina can be treated by improving blood flow to your heart and lowering your risk of
complications. A physical exam and a test can help to learn more about your condition and
determine the best treatments.

  • Common treatment options include:
  • Anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs to lower your risk of blood clots.Medicines to control blood pressure.
  • Cholesterol medications.
  • Angina-specific medication.
  • Changes in lifestyle.
  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also called coronary angioplasty and stenting
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).

Q. What can you do to control your angina?

A. It is always better to consult a doctor before starting with any self-remedies. Some general tips include –

  • Keep a log of your angina episodes with date and time, what it felt like, and possible Triggers. Share it with your cardiologist.
  • Keep track of the pain level on a scale of 1 to 10. Share it with your doctor.
  • Know when to call for emergency help.
  • Take the prescribed medication.
  • Avoid the triggers that lead to an angina attack.

Q. What are some ways to live a healthy lifestyle to prevent angina?

A. The best way to prevent or reduce the risk of angina is to lead a healthy lifestyle. Here are
some ways to it –

  • Avoid smoking and all tobacco products, including exposure to passive smoke.
  • Treat your heart with a healthy diet and lower your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and sodium.
  • Manage stress by practicing meditation, yoga, or talking with a counselor or friend. Writing a journal may also help to process emotions and concerns.
  • Keep a weight that’s healthy for you by consulting your doctor. Also, seek advice on how to reach that goal.
  • Manage risk factors for coronary artery disease, which include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and diabetes.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily (only after consulting your doctor).
  • Take medicines on time as they reduce or eliminate your anginal symptoms.

Q. When to see a doctor?

A. You should see a doctor if your chest pain lasts longer than a few minutes and doesn’t go
away when you rest or take your angina medications. It may be a sign you have a heart
attack. If you have started feeling chest discomfort lately, see your doctor to determine the
cause and get proper treatment. If you’ve been diagnosed with stable angina and it gets worse
or changes, seek medical help immediately.

Angina is different from a heart attack. But severe angina can surely be a symptom of an
Impending heart attack. To prevent medical complications, it is vital to receive the appropriate medical treatment from our Heart Specialists.

To book an appointment, contact us at +91-9540 114 114.